By Darcel Choy Wednesday, October 31 2012
Hurricane Sandy has left 107 people dead after storming through the Caribbean and across major cities along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, even hitting Canada, over the past nine days.
As a Category One hurricane, Sandy killed 68 people in the Caribbean, with the highest death toll of 51 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, two in Bahamas, two in Dominican Republic, one in Jamaica and one in Puerto Rico.
In the United States (US), the number of persons who died was 38, most killed by trees toppled over by the strong gusts of Sandy. In Canada, a woman was killed when a sign post struck her after gusts associated with Sandy ripped the post off the corner of St Clair Avenue and Keele Street, Toronto.
More than 50 million were affected in the United States, among them 400,000 TT nationals who mostly reside in the cities of New York and Washington DC.
All of the TT nationals were reported safe although, as was the case for millions of Americans, some suffered significant damage to their homes with Sandy estimated to have wreaked billions of dollars in losses in North America alone.
Trinidadian Tricia Quan Kep, who lives in Queens, New York, said she and her family were safe and they had power, unlike more than eight million who remained without electricity across the Eastern Seaboard.
She said around the area where she lived there were downed trees and power lines but they had electricity throughout Monday and yesterday.
“We are thankful that we had electricity unlike others,” she told Newsday. TT’s Ambassador to the US, Mexico and the Organisation of the Americas, Dr Neil Parsan said there were no reports of any fatalities of TT nationals.
“There have been no reports of fatalities but a lot of people have reported damage to their property, some have had flooding in their homes mostly in New York in areas such as Coney Island, Battery Park and South Bronx. The main priority for me and the mission is to ensure the safety and security of our own citizens,” he told Newsday.
He said TT citizens who visited the US on vacation or business were calling the embassy seeking to get a flight to return home but Parsan said there was not much the embassy can do in that regard.
“There were also people calling to report they were without electricity but there were millions of people without electricity all across the Eastern Seaboard, so these challenges were expected but our priority right now is ensuring that everyone was okay,” he said.
Sandy which made landfall on the Eastern Seaboard on Monday evening as a hurricane was later downgraded as a post tropical cyclone because it was no longer fuelled by warm temperatures. It however remained as strong as a Category One hurricane, with powerful winds and low pressure. It also brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and the neighbouring Appalachian states, with more than two feet of snow expected in some places.
The super-storm brought devastating floods and people had to be evacuated from their homes and were placed in shelters. Several trees which were uprooted which damaged homes and vehicles. Boats ran aground, some landing on train tracks. Several cars were seen floating in the streets and some were underwater as Sandy churned up more than 14 feet of water that flooded the Eastern Seaboard.
In New York, there were 23 serious fires and more than 80 houses burned in Breezy Point, Queens, because of transformer explosions.
US president Barack Obama declared a “major disaster” in New York and cancelled a campaign trip to Ohio.
Seven New York subway tunnels and six bus garages were underwater. The city’s mayor Michael Bloomberg said the subway was likely to be out of service for another four to five days.
The flooding was so severe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked a team of specialists skilled at draining flooded areas from the Army Corps of Engineers to help city officials.A disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach US$20 billion.
East Coast electric companies reported that outages from Sandy have hit more than 8.1 million homes and businesses.
Close to 300 patients were evacuated floor by floor from a premiere hospital that lost generator power on Monday.
Media reports said that rescuers and staff at New York University Langone Medical Center made ten to 15 trips down dark stairwells evacuating patients which lasted more than 15 hours. Some of the patients included four newborn babies who relied on respirators to breathe.
More than 15,000 flights were cancelled worldwide as air carriers waited for the all clear from US and Canadian airports which closed on Monday ahead of Sandy’s arrival.
Local carrier, Caribbean Airlines, cancelled its flights into and out of John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, New York as well as Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Monday.
The airline resumed its flights to Canada with one departing Piarco for Toronto yesterday morning, however the resumption of New York flights would be based on information received from officials at JFK airport, Clint Williams, communications manager for Caribbean Airlines, told Newsday.
Williams said the airline has not had any confirmation but JFK indicated an intention to reopen at about noon today.
“Once we get confirmation that we can fly, we will advise our passengers,” Williams said.
Newsday was later informed Caribbean Airlines was expected to have flights depart from Kingston, Jamaica, Georgetown, Guyana and Port-of-Spain today, after the US Federal Aviation Authority gave international airlines permission to resume 40 percent of their flight schedule. In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar expressed solidarity with those living in the US who have been affected by Sandy. She commended US authorities for their work in ensuring the minimisation of loss of life and property.
“It is commendable that people are willing to risk their own lives and their safety to ensure that their countrymen and women survive this terrible ordeal,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said she has been in contact with Parsan who told her that the Consulate in New York and the UN Mission and the Embassy in Washington DC were ready and willing to assist persons in need. Citizens in need of assistance can contact the consulate in New York at www.ttcgnewyork.com or text the ambassador on 1-202-905 0555, providing as much information as possible, so assistance can be rendered. Up to press time yesterday evening, the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said Sandy continued to weaken over Pennsylvania.
Heavy rain and flooding were however expected to continue.
Canada also felt the lingering effects of Sandy, as strong winds and heavy rains hit southern Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Maritimes.
A wind warning remained in place for the Quebec City region.