Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

US storm leaves a trail of ruined travel plans

People walk on the beach in Atlantic City as an American flag flaps in the wind after Hurricane Irene (AP)
Residents of Annapolis look at downed power lines after Hurricane Irene (AP)

Hundreds of local travellers affected by flight disruption caused by Hurricane Irene were still trying to get back home yesterday.

Others were waiting to hear when they could fly out to America for business or holidays.

The hurricane has now passed but the effects are still being felt with major transport delays mainly caused by flooding.

President Barack Obama has warned that the chaos caused by the storm could continue for several days.

John Kelly and his wife Alice, from Co Tyrone, were in New York for a family wedding that took place on Friday.

Mr Kelly said: "The wedding was on Friday and everything was fine. We had a great day. Everyone made it. Hurricane Irene hit us on Saturday and Sunday.

"It was very rough and windy. We were ok and just stayed in the apartment."

The retired sub-postmaster his wife, son and daughter, were to fly from New York to Dublin yesterday but they will now fly home tomorrow.

Airlines were starting to deal with the backlog yesterday.

The first flight from Belfast International Airport to Newark, New Jersey, departed at 11.15am yesterday.

The first passengers travelling from New York are expected to arrive at Belfast International Airport at 9am this morning.

It's understood around 650 passengers were affected by four cancelled flights at the weekend.

A spokesman for United Airlines and Continental Airlines said: "We are doing everything we can to accommodate customers and get them home as soon as possible."

Some 2,265 flights were cancelled on August 27 and August 28 and an additional 437 flights on August 29.

Around 100 high-profile figures from Northern Ireland including Health Minister Edwin Poots, Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile are in New York for the World Police and Fire Games.

A spokesman for Edwin Poots said the Stormont Health Minister arrived "just in time for the hurricane" and that his timetable had been badly affected.

Mr Poots was due to visit Boston yesterday.

Instead of flying, Mr Poots will take the train to Washington DC today for a visit to the National Cancer Institute to find out more about its pioneering work in research, training and prevention.

Speaking yesterday Culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin said things were "back to business" in New York.

She said: "New York city is getting back to normal. The streets are filling up and the bustle is back."

She added that her flight was due to leave on Sunday night but was hopeful that they would fly out soon.

"Naturally my colleagues and I are anxious to get home to our families. Until then I have a full schedule of engagements with arts and sporting events," she said.

Meanwhile, Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle confirmed her new home in New York was undamaged by Hurricane Irene.

Kinetic Analysis Corp, a consulting firm, has tentatively put the financial cost of Hurricane Irene's damage at up to $7bn (£4.26bn) nationally, with insured losses of between $3bn and $4bn (£1.8bn and £2.4bn). Irene - now downgraded to a tropical storm as it heads to Canada - has claimed at least 21 lives.

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