Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Sandy's apocalyptic aftermath - from vibrant metropolis to wasteland

Damage north of Seaside, N.J. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 after superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey
A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 in Hoboken, NJ. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
CAPE MAY, NJ - OCTOBER 28: A loader surfer takes advantage of the heavy surf caused by the approaching hurricane Sandy, on October 28, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit the New Jersey coastline sometime on Monday bringing heavy winds and floodwaters. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The battered US East Coast took the first steps back towards daily routine today, even as rescuers combed areas strewn with debris and scarred by floods and fire.

But while New York buses returned to darkened streets oddly free of traffic and the Stock Exchange was set to reopen, it became clear that restoring the region to its normal pace could take days - and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transport networks that link them would take much longer.

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

As the city began its second day after being hit by superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers noticed an increase in traffic and a small sign of normalcy: people waiting at bus stops.

On the Brooklyn Bridge, closed earlier because of high winds, joggers and bikers crossed before sunrise. One cyclist carried a torch. Car traffic on the bridge was busy, and slowed as it neared Manhattan.

President Barack Obama was visiting New Jersey to see the area near Atlantic City where the violent storm made landfall two days before. With the presidential election just six days away, he was cancelling campaign events for the third straight day to focus on co-ordinating the response to the superstorm. His Republican rival Mitt Romney planned to resume full-scale campaigning in Florida.

The winds and flooding inflicted by the fast-weakening Sandy had subsided, leaving at least 55 people dead along the Atlantic Coast and splintering beachfront homes and boardwalks from the mid-Atlantic states to southern New England.

The storm later moved across Pennsylvania on a predicted path toward western New York State and Canada.

At the height of the disaster, more than 8.2 million people lost electricity - some as far away as Michigan. Nearly a quarter of those without power were in New York, where lower Manhattan's usually bright lights remained dark for a second night.

But, amid the despair, talk of recovery was already beginning.

"It's heartbreaking after being here 37 years," Barry Prezioso of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, said as he returned to his house in the beachfront community to survey the damage. "You see your home demolished like this, it's tough. But nobody got hurt and the upstairs is still liveable, so we can still live upstairs and clean this out. I'm sure there's people that had worse. I feel kind of lucky."

Much of the initial recovery efforts focused on New York, the region's economic heart. Mayor Bloomberg said it could take four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again.

Power companies said it would be four days before the last of the 337,000 customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn cut off have electricity again and it could take a week to restore areas in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County.

First signs of a return came with the reopening of roads in Connecticut and bridges across the Hudson and East rivers.

A limited number of the white and blue buses that criss-cross New York's grid returned on a reduced schedule - but free of charge.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey reopened with limited service. New York's LaGuardia Airport remained closed.

But even with the return of some transportation and plans to reopen schools and businesses, the damage and pain inflicted by Sandy continued to unfold, confirming the challenge posed by rebuilding.

In New Jersey, amusement rides that once crowned a pier in Seaside Heights were dumped into the ocean, some homes were smashed, and others were partially buried in sand.

Farther north in Hoboken, across the Hudson from Manhattan, New Jersey National Guard troops arrived to reach thousands of flood victims stuck in their homes.

Trees and power lines were down in every corner of the state. Schools and state government offices were closed for a second day, and many called off classes too.

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