Caribbean Nationals feeling the impact of Sandy

November 1, 2012 – News Americas

The new Barclays Center, on Flatbush Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York, became a hub for Brooklynites on Thursday November 1, 2012, to get to Manhattan, by shuttle buses, due to Super storm Sandy, which flooded the tunnels in downtown Manhattan, shutting down subways. Brooklynites stood in line from about 45 mins to over an hour to get to work on one of the shuttle buses that took them across the Manhattan Bridge into mid-town Manhattan. (Photo: Hayden Roger Celestin)

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 2, 2012: Super Storm Sandy has dissipated but the impact on Caribbean Diaspora nationals in the Northeastern United States and the nationals of Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas and the DR continues to be felt. 

In New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Maryland and West Virginia, many continue to battle cold temperatures without heat as power companies have yet to flip back on the power for millions.

Guyanese national, Allison Skeete, lives in New Jersey, and is among two million in the Garden State affected. Skeete has been without power since Sandy made landfall on Monday night.

“No Light, No Heat, No Bus, No Train… I’m fed up,” said Skeete, taking to social network Facebook to voice her angst.

Jamaican national Stacey Bethel is also without heat, hot water and electricity. On Thursday morning, she was sitting in a Dunkin Donut charging her phone, laptop and iPad to get some sort of communication with the outside world.

Over in Roosevelt, Long Island, Marjorie Flash, is also without power. It’s been day four and there is no telling when the power will return for Long Island Power Authority Customers in the dark. Customers in Baldwin and Freeport are also the more than 900,000 LIPA customers without power. Overall there are about 6 million homes and businesses without power in 15 U.S. states. The power companies say they have restored electricity to some 2.4 million customers in the U.S. Northeast.

Fallen trees slammed into power lines, taking them down Monday and with it power to millions in the tri-state area. The storm has so far been blamed for more than 88 deaths in the United States, including 37 in New York City. There were at least 12 in New Jersey, 5 in West Virginia, 12 in Pennsylvania and 4 in Connecticut and the numbers are expected to climb as rescue crews check the full scale of the damage and search the wreckage of damaged buildings and infrastructure. Some people were killed by falling trees or downed power lines.

Grenadian media owner, Junior George, on Thursday morning was also growing tired of the dark and cold.

“Cold House, Cold Studio Gas Tank Empty, Generator Empty!” he shared.

“The town where I live, Freeport, LI was under 6 feet of water during the height of the storm. There is now 5 feet of water in my basement and while we have 3 sump pumps plugged in, our side of town won’t get power back on until Saturday, and this is only after an electrician must certify that it’s safe to do so,” said Haitian national Djenny Passe Rodriguez. “This is a Catch-22 because we have no power to pump the water out so that an electrician can actually get down in the basement to certify us.”

On Thursday, subways, railroads and buses started to roll again, cars jockeyed for passengers to meet a high occupancy rule, and air travel eased slightly as La Guardia Airport reopened.

But still many others, luckily unscathed by Sandy, tried to return to work only to find long lines at gas stations, packed subways and buses and traffic jams into the city of Manhattan.

Local Caribbean TV host, Tanuja Raghoo, said in Queens, New York, “The gas stations were packed and there were long lines of cars waiting to fill up.”

Two men on McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, fill their tank with gas after walking some half of mile to get the precious liquid. Gas shortages are now becoming the order of the day in the aftermath of Sandy which prompted the shutdown of two of six East Coast refineries and forced reduced runs at four others. (Hayden Roger Celestin image)

“Many gas stations are closed so they have no gasoline to sell,” she added.

Pascal Paqite Gusto also endured long gas lines in Brooklyn, adding that there was even a shoot out over gas at Coney Island.”

REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS TO DIASPORA

Only three regional governments have so far sent support to their Diasporas. As journalist Ian Forrest summed it up: “Now maybe Yard People a Yard can spend some time trying to overstand the realities of the Diaspora…always it seems the Diaspora comes to the aid of Jamaica in its time of crisis…I wonder how now we there in Jamaica are reaching out to our people from Virginia all the way up to Maine…hmmm.”

On Tuesday morning, U.S.V.I. Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. and Grenada Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, were the first regional leaders extending words of support to their Diaspora.

“Our thoughts are with those who reside in New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC and the other states up and down the east coast of the United States who have felt the devastating effects of this storm – everything from rain, winds, snow and fire,” de Jongh said. He noted that numerous residents in the tri-state region and along the coast from Florida to New Jersey hail from the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.
De Jongh said Lt. Governor Gregory Francis has been in touch with the leaders of various civic organizations in the New York and Washington, DC areas and pledged to support the recovery effort as is needed.

“We in the territory are very familiar with the devastating effects of wind and rain storms and we know how these natural disasters can affect our daily lives. We pray for a speedy recovery by our resilient Caribbean people. Over the next few days, I am sure that, with the assistance being provided, those affected by this storm will begin to pull their lives together again,” de Jongh said.

Grenada’s PM Thomas said his government expressed solidarity to all Grenadians and other Caribbean nationals affected.
“Our concern for you comes against the background of our own recent experiences with Hurricanes Ivan and Emily,” said the PM. “We hope and pray for your safety and that of all others residing along the path of Hurricane Sandy.”

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller extended “deepest sympathies to the people of North America” adding that prayers also go out to “the members of the Diaspora who have been affected.”

While in a letter to the Jamaican Diaspora Thursday, A.J. Nicholas, Minister of Foreign Affairs said: “As you continue your recovery in the coming days and weeks, please be assured that the Government and people of Jamaica stand with you, our Jamaican-American family, in spirit and in love. Even as we share in your discomfort, sadness and loss, we also share your pride in knowing that, wherever there are acts of kindness, bravery, and resolve – we Jamaicans will, somehow, be part of these acts.”

And in Guyana, the leader and central executive of the opposition, People’s National Congress Reform, said it emphasized with Guyanese nationals of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia where the effects of the storm effects were extremely devastating.
“We would like to assure you of our continued concern and support. We extend our prayers to all those affected during this time of distress. We wish that there would be a speedy and return to normalcy from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy,” The PNCR said in a statement.

OVERALL
Overall the death toll from Sandy is put at 158, with 70 in the Caribbean. The storm, then a hurricane, killed 54 in Haiti and also caused damage to 70 per cent of the crops in southern Haiti. Eleven died in Cuba, two in Canada, and one each in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. In neighboring Jamaica also left at least $16.5 million worth of damage in its wake while in Cuba, the government raised the number of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy from 130,000 to 200,000. In the Bahamas, the total cost of damage to private property and public infrastructure is expected to reach as high as $300 million, according to a report from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, a risk pool for 16 governments in the Caribbean.

ELECTIONS
With the election just four days away, sadly Sandy has also seemed to steal the enthusiasm of voters in the five affected states. But as John Crow, the Grenada-born host of Caribbean Classroom warned his followers on FB: “Flood or no flood, fire or no fire, train or no train, gas or no gas. Let the folks know that they still have to find a way to get out and vote on Election Day. Call the local elected officials if you need help to vote. Ah serious thing.”

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