Friday 24 November 2017

Superstorm Sandy: President Obama to travel to New Jersey

Damage caused by the fire at Breezy Point in the Queens borough of New York. Photo: AP
Video grab shows floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy rush into the Port Authority Trans-Hudson's (PATH) Hoboken, New Jersey station through an elevator shaft
Floodwaters surround a car parked on a street in Hoboken, New Jersey. Photo: Reuters
Heavy surf crashes over a seawall on the Atlantic Ocean during the early stages of Hurricane Sandy. Photo: AP
Flooding and high winds arrive along North Michigan Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey (AP/The Press of Atlantic City, Michael Ein)
Lower Manhattan goes dark during superstorm Sandy (AP)
The facade of a four-storey building on 14th Street and 8th Avenue collapsed on to the pavement in New York (AP)

Barney Henderson

President Barack Obama will travel to New Jersey tomorrow to view damage in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, the White House said in a statement.

"Tomorrow afternoon, the president will travel to New Jersey where he will join Governor (Chris) Christie in viewing the storm damage, talking with citizens who are recovering from the storm and thanking first responders who put their lives at risk to protect their communities," the statement said.

Earlier President Obama cancelled campaign appearances planned for Ohio on Wednesday because of the storm.

His comments came as the US continued to count the cost of the storm as the death toll continued to rise.

According to reports, the death toll has reached 38 across the US and Canada with the storm already costing over 65 lives in the Caribbean.

By this afternoon, at least eight million people still did not have power.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that in his city of New York alone, ten people had been killed.

"This was a devastating storm, perhaps the worse we've ever experienced," Mr Bloomberg said.

"We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times: by standing together should-to-shoulder ready to help a neighbour, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the devastation "unthinkable".

New York was inundated with record levels of floodwater, causing what was described by authorities as the worst disruption in history to the city's transport network.

In one of the first pieces of good news, New York state governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York Stock Exchange was likely to reopen on Wednesday.

"I spoke with (US Treasury Secretary) Tim Geithner about accelerating the return of Wall Street and we are cautiously optimistic that Wall Street will be back online tomorrow," he said on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day a fire raged through the borough of Queens, destroying at least 50 homes. Around 200 firefighters battled the blaze.

The neighbourhood, Breezy Point in the borough of Queens, had been extensively flooded by Sandy's record storm surge, and firefighters were hampered in their efforts to bring the blaze under control, a spokesman for the New York Fire Department said.

No casualties were immediately reported and the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Seven New York subway tunnels and six bus garages were underwater. Mr Bloomberg said the subway was likely to be out of service for another four to five days.

Rising seawater rushes into a subterranian parking garage in the Financial District of New York (Getty Images)

"The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," said Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

A levee broke in northern New Jersey on Tuesday morning, flooding the towns of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt with 4 to 5 feet of water.

"We are in rescue mode," Geanne Baratta, chief of the Bergen County Executive told Reuters. There were no reports of fatalities as of yet, she said.

Ralph Verdi, the police chief of Little Ferry told CNN the waters had risen by four to six feet in some areas, as rescuers pulled residents from second-story windows to safety.

One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20bn, only half of which insured.

An "alert" was issued at the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant due to a record storm surge, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

A further rise in water levels could force operators to use emergency water supplies from a fire hose to cool spent uranium fuel rods.

Sandy made landfall in New Jersey at 8pm local time, leaving Atlantic City underwater, and hurling a record-breaking 13-foot wall of seawater at New York City.

It had already claimed the lives of over 65 people in the Caribbean.

"Hitting at high tide, the strongest surge and the strongest winds all hit at the worst possible time," said Jeffrey Tongue, a meteorologist for the weather service in Brookhaven, New York.

On Monday a replica of the tallship HMS Bounty was sunk by the hurricane off North Carolina. One of the crew - Claudene Christian, 42, who was crowned Miss Alaska National Teenager in 1987 - was killed. The captain of the vessel was still missing, while 14 others were rescued.

Mr Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney cancelled campaign events due to Hurricane Sandy.

It remained to be seen whether the devastation caused by the storm would have any further repucussions on next week's presidential election.

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