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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Analysis: Investment sponges for a growth-saturated world


Wed, Oct 31 03:45 AM EDT By Mike Dolan LONDON (Reuters) - When paltry (ittle/small)growth, systemic risk and resource scarcity are darkening the global horizon, investors must hunt shrewdly to find stocks resilient enough to ride out the storm. Far from being cathartic,((Inducing catharsis; purgative. n. An agent for purging the bowels, especially a laxative. )) the past five years of credit crisis and the subsequent slow, painful debt paydown has merely nudged the world economy deeper into the dangers posed by dramatic population growth, aging in rich economies and shortages of natural resources and capital. Whether you call it the "new normal" or an economic "perma-frost"((thin layer of frozen soil )), the resulting consensus is for many more years of sub-par global growth and a vulnerability to shocks that the public at large and the institutions managing their savings are going to have to navigate deftly.((Quick and skillful; adroit. See synonyms at dexterous )) For some, such as bond fund PIMCO's boss Bill Gross, this heralds the death of the "cult of equity" as most firms struggle to boost revenues and profits in such a dour environment. With bond returns at historical lows and converging rapidly to near zero rates on cash, there's little solace there too for savers even attempting to beat inflation over time. High-dividend blue chips or high-yield corporate bonds have been chased relentlessly over the past couple of years as a hybrid. Yet some strategists and stock pickers now insist that work needs to intensify on finding innovative "new growth" firms with environmentally sustainable and efficient long-term strategies as well as high scores on governance and regulatory sensitivity. The rise in recent years of investment models based on "socially responsible investment", SRI, or companies with high ratings on "environmental, social and governance" metrics, ESG, has met with mixed reviews. But strategists at UK asset manager Schroders warn of dangers in ignoring the scale of population and environmental overload twinned with the demand suppressant of deleveraging and cash hoarding. Fears over the impact of population growth, which took just 12 years to go from 6 to 7 billion people and is expected to rise another 30 percent by 2050, are not new. But together with rising income aspirations across emerging markets, the impact on food, energy and other natural resources remains daunting. Amid a long litany ((•A liturgical prayer consisting of a series of petitions recited by a leader alternating with fixed responses by the congregation. • A repetitive or incantatory recital: "the litany of layoffs in recent months by corporate giants" (Sylvia Nasar). )) of shockers in the report, Schroders cited data estimating that if everyone in the world reached a U.S. level of consumption, we would need three times the ecological capacity of the world. What's more, statistics compiled for the United Nations by Trucost put the monetary value of environmental damage caused by the top 3000 listed companies at $2.25 trillion, or 3.5 percent of global GDP and a third of their profits. HYBRIDS, SHAMPOO AND GRAPHENE Schroders makes three key points for equity investors. First is that governments will eventually need to regulate to find a sustainable balance and markets will lean that way too. Second, financial systems will then reward companies with efficient processes and resource usage. And third, companies that innovate to solve these problems will be winners. Among examples, it cites Toyota's leadership in hybrid and electric cars and Unilever's development of water efficiency with dry shampoos and single-rinse laundry products. On technologies, it pointed to research into graphene - the one-atom thick carbon sheet, 100 time stronger than steel, which can be used to strengthen copper without reducing conductivity and is also being investigated for use in water desalinization and DNA sequencing. "Any investor with a long-term horizon should be minimizing portfolio risk by ensuring they invest in resilient companies with highly efficient resource usage and the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing conditions," the report said. So, how prevalent is this sort of investing already and has it been successful to date? In highlighting future key trends now affecting investment management, HSBC recently included SRI/ESG in its top 10. The cache of companies in these indices varies from firms simply sensitive to public policy issues or passing governance tests - a hot topic among investors in China right now - to those actively addressing environmental or ethical concerns. But there's little doubt demand is rising. HSBC data shows SRI assets under management in Europe jumped to over $8 trillion in 2010 from next to nothing in 2005 and is about $3 trillion in the United States. Crucially, pension funds and others are increasingly demanding investment along SRI/ESG principles, in part because greater transparency on fund holdings is becoming an issue for savers and trustees. Data from pension fund consultancy Mercer, cited by HSBC, show that such pension fund ratings right now are "dismal", with under 10 percent in the top half of a 1-4 scale. The bigger question for return-hungry investors is whether these assets actually perform despite their supposed ethical, environmental or political correctness. To date, the lukewarm reviews reflect the fact that both the MSCI World ESG index and the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index have underperformed global benchmarks by anywhere from two to six percent over the past two years. But if the mounting economic problems are still way into the future, maybe the potential returns are out there too. "ESG is a concept that will expand further," HSBC concluded. "This is certainly an area that fund managers will need to spend more time on." (Editing by Ruth Pitchford) ============== If only we knew Ethical economy: Admit economic ignorance 31 October 2012 | By Edward Hadas Print Email Share Comment Save . It is time for economists to admit that they are stumped. Four years after being blindsided by Lehman Brothers’ collapse, the profession is still stumbling in the dark. Policymakers and pundits still make confident pronouncements, but the conclusions are radically different. The expert disagreements give away the truth: ignorance reigns. Here are six crucial questions which professionals should stop pretending they can answer: 1) What creates retail inflation? If, as some economists think, ample supplies of money push up prices, then the current inflation rates of around 2 percent are inexplicably low. After all, monetary and fiscal policies have never been as generous. If, as other professionals believe, prices fall when there is excess supply of goods and labour, then inflation rates are inexplicably high. Production is still well below trend levels and unemployment rates have rarely been as high. 2) How do financial asset prices affect the real economy? Before the credit bubble burst, most economists believed high prices in financial markets were a sign and a cause of a strong economy. Now bull markets seem more dangerous. But then again, low or falling asset prices seem to discourage economic activity, and they are presumably more dangerous when leverage levels are high. 3) Do big fiscal deficits damage the economy? Austerity fans are persuaded that deficits are harmful, stimulus fans are equally certain they are not. The evidence, from Japan, Europe and the United States, is inconclusive. The largest government budget shortfalls ever in peacetime have neither clearly held back nor obviously increased either GDP growth or employment. The situation might have been much worse with smaller deficits, or the current high deficits may actually be storing up terrible trouble of some sort for later. No one really knows. 4) What does quantitative easing actually do? Central banks’ balance sheets certainly expand when they use newly created funds to buy government debt. Other than that, nothing much is clear. The weight of the additional money may depress bond yields or the fear of inflation might eventually increase them. QE may encourage banks to increase lending, or it may not. Governments may feel less restraint on fiscal policy, or they may not. 5) How much leverage is too much? Some amount of debt is desirable in an economy; the borrowing and corresponding savings reflect a beneficial shift of resources from those with too much to those in need. Some amount of debt is too much; when relatively small defaults can start a chain reaction of institutional failures. There does not seem to be any way to know when the boundary line between helpful and dangerous levels has been crossed. 6) How to deleverage without damaging the economy? The debt danger line was certainly crossed sometime before the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent euro crisis. Now policymakers are trying to reduce debt levels without harming the real economy. As yet, they have managed to do little more than shift debt from private to government balance sheets. That might prove more harmful than helpful, if the euro zone’s sovereign crises prove the first of many. This list of economic mysteries is far from complete. The experts cannot determine whether or when capital controls are useful, how changes in foreign exchange rates effect production, what can reduce persistent high unemployment rates, or where confidence comes from. They are at a loss to explain the financial implications of the shift in the global economic balance to favour developing countries. Economists who can answer any of these questions deserve Nobel prizes. There is a generation’s worth to be won. Unfortunately, while the prizes can wait, policy has to be made now, in confusion and ignorance. The world has been here before, during the 1930s Great Depression. Then John Maynard Keynes provided helpful insights about the appropriate role of the government in the economy and the way that the supply of money and credit interacts with economic activity. He came late, though. If his insights had been believed after World War One, the second one might have been avoided. Global war is not on the horizon, but the cost of ignorance about basic economic questions is still substantial: four years of disappointing growth and unacceptably high unemployment in most developed economies, without even a clear improvement in financial conditions. There are signs that the worst may be over, but the steady GDP growth that was taken for granted before the crisis remains a distant dream. While waiting for definitive answers, economists should strive for humility. They have much to be humble about. Besides, the admission of ignorance can open the mind. Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, said that while he knew no more than his Sophist rivals, he was a “tiny bit wiser” because at least he knew that he did not know. ==================== 4 Days’ Training Workshop on Measuring the Impact of Intervention- A Detailed Insight into “Social Return on Investment” - Thailand Introduction: There is increasing recognition that we need better ways to account for the social, economic and environmental value that result from our activities or interventions. The language varies – ‘impact’, ‘returns’, ‘benefit’, ‘value’ – but the questions around what sort of difference and how much of a difference we are making are the same. Understanding and managing this broader value is becoming increasingly important for the public and private sectors alike. Training Contents: What is Social Return on Investment (SROI)? Establishing scope and identifying stakeholders Mapping outcomes Evidencing outcomes and giving them a value Establishing impact Calculating the SROI Reporting, using and embedding Objectives of the Training: After attending this training, participants will be able to: Understand the concept of Social Return on Investment Setup an Impact Map to be used to understand and calculate the SROI. Valuating (quantifying) their outcomes and compare them with their objectives and social investment Understand what are the emerging issues to be addressed to ensure better SROI in their respective organizations? What are the initiatives they can take to attain better SROI ================

Monday, October 29, 2012

Analysis: What's eating Australia? Foreign buyers at the farm gate


======== Australian heat wave sears new colors onto maps Wed, Jan 09/ 2013-04:01 AM EST 1 of 3 SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's record-breaking heatwave has sent temperatures soaring, melting road tar and setting off hundreds of wildfires - as well as searing new colors onto weather maps. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has added dark purple and magenta to its color-coded weather forecasting map to represent temperatures of 51 to 54 degrees Celsius (123.8 to 129.2 Fahrenheit), officials said. Temperatures on the map were previously capped at 50 degrees Celsius, represented by the color black. "In order to better understand what temperatures we might see ... we introduced two new colors," said Aaron Coutts-Smith, manager of climate services at the Bureau of Meteorology. Forecast models have predicted a large area of temperatures of over 50 for next Monday, he added. Australia's average maximum temperature has exceeded 39 degrees Celsius for a record-breaking seven consecutive days. The previous record of four consecutive days above that level was in 1973. The hottest temperature recorded on Monday was in the South Australian outback town of Oodnadatta, where the mercury topped out at a scorching 48.2 degrees Celsius - forcing the local petrol station to stop selling fuel after it started vaporizing. (Reporting By Thuy Ong, editing by Elaine Lies and Paul Tait) ===================== Sun, Oct 28 15:04 PM EDT By Lincoln Feast and James Grubel SYDNEY/CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia risks losing an opportunity to become a farmyard for Asia, as growing unease over foreigners buying rural land threatens to provoke protectionist policies that may deter much needed investment in agriculture. With its vast landmass, abundant natural resources and stable government, Australia has relied on foreign farm investments for more than 100 years, with interest set to grow as the world looks to dramatically boost food production to feed Asia's booming middle class over the next 40 years. "I think we are going to see a continued interest. The soft commodities boom around the world and the demand for food will continue to drive that interest," said Jock Laurie, head of Australia's top farming lobby, the National Farmers' Federation. The latest wave of interest in Australian agriculture has seen a number of high-profile deals involving Chinese investors, including the purchase of the country's biggest cotton farm, as well as foreign takeovers in its deregulated wheat industry. U.S. firm Archer Daniels Midland is bidding $2.8 billion for Australia's dominant grain handling company, GrainCorp. But the growing interest has ignited a political debate and raised the risk of tighter foreign investment rules in a country generally seen as more open to investment than farming rivals Canada and New Zealand. "We know foreign investment is important to Australia. But we need to make sure we're not selling the cow along with the milk," said independent Senator Nick Xenophon. The issue is a sensitive one in mostly conservative rural communities, particularly for a government struggling in opinion polls and facing elections in late 2013. A poll by the Lowy Institute think tank this year found four out of five Australians opposed the government allowing foreign companies to buy Australian farmland. Some 63 percent were "strongly against" such sales. NATIONAL INTEREST Most sales of Australian farms to foreigners go unregulated and unrecorded. Only the largest farm deals - purchases of at least 15 percent of properties worth more than A$244 million ($252 million), or A$1 billion for U.S. investors - are examined by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). FIRB's "national interest" test has also been criticized as too vague and lacking in transparency. The rules mean foreign investment is assumed to be in the national interest unless the FIRB finds otherwise. Foreign investment rejections are rare. In the 2010-11 financial year, FIRB considered 10,293 investment deals and rejected only 43, with 42 of those suburban real estate purchases. It approved 5,687 investments with conditions. In Canada, foreign investors need to prove there is a "net benefit" to Canada for any investment over $332 million, and the industry minister has broad leeway to interpret the rules. Ottawa has scuppered at least two high profile resource deals - BHP Billiton's $40 billion bid for Potash Corp and most recently, a $5.2 billion bid for Progress Energy by Malaysia's Petronas. New Zealand reviews all foreign acquisitions of farmland above 5 hectares, meaning deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than tens of millions can be examined. A lot is at stake for Australia. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation has said global food production needs to rise 70 percent by 2050. Australia, which exports around A$30 billion worth of food yearly, wants to cash in on that growth, particularly from China and India. Yet a report compiled for ANZ Banking Group has found Australia needs an extra A$1 trillion in capital over the next four decades to improve agricultural supply chains and production and fund the transfer of farms to a new generation. Though a modern farm economy, Australia struggles with under-performing properties, inefficient supply structures and high levels of farm debt and needs to invest in new technology, markets and products, ANZ said in its "Greener Pastures" report. Australia is fighting not only its developed-world peers, but faces fierce competition from emerging market agricultural powerhouses Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia, the report notes. PRESSURE FOR CHANGE The conservative opposition, which is on track to win power at the next elections, wants the farm threshold for foreign investment scrutiny lowered to A$15 million, and wants to make sure the FIRB has at least one member with farm expertise. A Senate inquiry, dominated by opposition lawmakers and due to report in November, is likely to call for lower thresholds so more farm deals face FIRB scrutiny. The government, reliant on Greens and independents to hold power, has so far been reluctant to make significant changes, conscious of the need to attract foreign investors to help build its farming sector. Instead, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has agreed to set up a register of foreign ownership of farm lands in a move designed to appease public unease without unsettling investment flows. But the political noise surrounding foreign farm investments continues, with the leader of the rural-based National Party, Warren Truss, criticizing the ADM bid for GrainCorp. "We are rapidly descending into a state where farmers will toil in their paddocks while post-farm gate profits from Australia's A$9 billion a year grain crops will be counted in multi-national boardrooms," said Truss, who would become deputy prime minister under a conservative government. Ian Smith, of corporate advisory firm Bespoke Approach which has helped Chinese investors tip-toe through the FIRB processes, said he did not believe the new register signaled a tightening of foreign investment rules. "Given the recent political attention it is not a surprise that steps have been taken. It is not so much a tightening of the regime, but more a sign by government that it is responsive to public concerns without undermining potential investment," Smith said. Foreign investors needed to be aware of the domestic debate, and make sure they highlight benefits to local communities and jobs from any deals, he said. "The noise of the outspoken and at times xenophobic politicians is very damaging for Australia's reputation as place to invest," Smith added. ($1 = A$0.97) (Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Mark Bendeich) ============== Analysis: Foreign investors in Australian farms; rash or prescient? 4-Bunge earnings double as drought alters grain trade Thu, Oct 25 2012Analysis & OpinionFrontier markets: safe haven for stability seekers Is there something better than Vanguard? Related TopicsInvesting Simplified » 1 of 4. An emu makes its way through a wheat field on a farm near Chinchilla, about 250km (155 miles) west of Brisbane, in this October 28, 2011 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Tim Wimborne/Files By Maggie Lu Yueyang and Colin Packham CANBERRA/SYDNEY | Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:29pm EST CANBERRA/SYDNEY (Reuters) - For all the willing buyers seeking tracts of Australian farm land, local investors are not among them. They wonder what all the fuss is about. Years of weak and volatile returns and some of the harshest weather on earth suggest a wave of foreign interest in Australia's farms and agricultural assets is on a fool's errand.
"Overseas investors are too dumb to realise that they are not going to make money out of Australia agriculture," said David Leyonhjelm, an Australia-based agriculture consultant at Baron Strategic Services.
He may have a point. Australian farms' return on capital has seldom exceeded more than 2 percent in a year on average during the past decade, excluding changes in land values, according to government research bureau ABARES. That is less than half the return on stocks and less than a third compared with bonds, figures from Russell Investments suggest. Although farm returns are volatile anyway - owing to the vagaries of the weather - the unpredictability of Australian earnings is much greater than in the United States. In the past 30 years, Australia's net farm income has experienced annual drops of more than 40 percent on five occasions compared to just once in the United States, data from ABARES and the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows. Including capital appreciation, Australian farm returns have been outstripped by Africa and Brazil. Australian farm debt has risen some 8 percent a year since 2001, almost double the pace of U.S. farm debt. Even when it comes to the weather, Australia seems worse off. It has the lowest and most variable rainfall patterns of any inhabited continent, due largely to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation climate pattern that periodically bakes much of the country in hot, dry weather and intersperses it with flooding rains. "In recent history, Australia has seen more volatility in agricultural farm output than other major agricultural producers," said Michael Creed, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank. "In the past 20 years alone, we've had a drought that lasted a decade and when the drought broke, it broke in massive way." Despite the weak and volatile returns, the explosion of the middle classes in Asia is attracting more offshore investors looking beyond immediate returns to an expected long-term surge in demand for high-quality food. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says the world needs to boost food output by 70 percent by 2050 to meet demand, a sobering statistic for highly populated countries such as China, where a major tenet of the Communist Party is guaranteeing food security for its 1.3 billion people. Chinese investors have been involved in a number of high-profile farm deals, including the purchase of the country's biggest cotton farm, the 1,000 sq km (390 sq miles) Cubbie Station. Chinese entities are also in the running for a large dairy operation in Tasmania and a big irrigation project in Western Australia. U.S. firm Archer Daniels Midland (ADM.N) last month made a $2.8 billion bid for Australia's last major independent grain handling company, GrainCorp (GNC.AX), spurring a 40 percent jump in its share price. Australia lacks comprehensive data on foreign ownership but the government says the vast majority of farms are locally owned and that has not changed much over the past 30 years. But spurred by a number of high-profile foreign deals, the issue has become politically sensitive as the sector struggles to attract much-needed investment at home. Despite local skepticism at the prospects for Australia's farming sector, the increase in offshore interest comes at a time when returns have seldom been better and adds to other evidence suggesting the foreign investment may not be mistimed after all. Helped by generous rains and strong global prices, Australian farmers may have enjoyed the best year in decades in 2011/12. "For the first time in more than 30 years, all states and all industries are expected to record positive farm business profits and rates of return," ABARES said in its 2011/12 annual crop and livestock farm performance report. Average farm cash income jumped to A$117,3000 in 2010/11 from just A$59,470 the previous year, it said. This year is forecast to remain a strong A$116,000 - almost 40 percent above its real, long-term average. GrainCorp, the target of Archer Daniels, last week posted a record profit of A$205 million, boosted by a bumper crop. It said the takeover bid failed to reflect the promise of the business. Some analysts say a global rush for agricultural land is just beginning, driven by increasing concerns over long-term food and water security. With the availability of suitable farmland shrinking and productivity gains slowing when populations are growing and diets changing, supply/demand dynamics are likely to be favorable over the next 40 years, an ANZ report says. Another study, by real estate company Savills (SVS.L), identifies Australia as having some of the lowest land costs for wheat production in the world and highlights the appreciation in farmland values since 2002. Shandong Ruyi Group, which bought Cubbie Station, is taking the long view, company adviser Ian Smith said. "They are not dictated by the short term and they also have a proud track record of maximizing the assets over the longer term," he said. Underscoring the gap between the short and the long view, Laguna Bay Pastoral Co, an agricultural investment fund advised by U.S. commodities trader Jim Rogers, was forced to seek investors offshore because of a lack of interest in Australia. "We were presented to most local funds. Most Australian local pension funds don't have agriculture assets allocation," Laguna founder Tim McGavin told Reuters. "We have been forced to market to overseas just because the general lack of understanding and interest in agriculture." Laguna secured its main seed funding from U.S.-based Global Endowment Management, and now aims to buy and privatize PrimeAg Australia Ltd (PAG.AX), an investor in rural property and water assets. Australia's vast pension funds industry, sitting on $1.4 trillion and looking for long-term diversified assets, has largely shied away from the sector. Even The Future Fund, Australia's $80 billion sovereign wealth fund, has no direct exposure to the country's agricultural sector. Still, Pauline Vamos, the chief executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, said interest in farm assets is picking up after some ill-conceived and poorly managed project had put off local investors. "You've had cotton farms built in the middle of the desert, you've had timber plantations built miles from any infrastructure - these schemes were never going to make any money," she said. (Additional reporting and writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Neil Fullick) ======================= Dec. 9, 2012 7:22 PM ET China's money changes the landscape in Australia By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press AIM Share More News Video APNewsBreak: Antigua to seek sanctions against US Dec. 9, 20121:58 PM ET APNewsBreak: Antigua pursues sanctions against US Dec. 9, 20121:20 PM ET Booze, smokes on agenda for quirky gov't group Dec. 8, 201210:28 AM ET Russian trade, human rights bill heads to Obama Dec. 6, 20122:30 PM ET Mongolia finds China can be too close for comfort Dec. 6, 201212:01 AM ET Advertisement Advertisement Buy AP Photo Reprints GUNNEDAH, Australia (AP) — Tony Clift's family has plowed the rich black soil of Australia's Liverpool Plains for six generations. The thought of selling never crossed his mind — until a Chinese company came to town. Shenhua Watermark Coal offered to buy farms at unheard-of prices. The decision wasn't easy, Clift says. His pioneer ancestors settled the land in 1832. But farming is a business nowadays, and selling his 6,500 acres (2,600 hectares) made business sense. "If someone offers you a whole heap of money, you've got to take it," says the 50-year-old father of two, sitting at the kitchen table of the palatial hilltop home he built with the windfall. A sea of yellow stretches out below, canola fields planted on less fertile land he bought 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the north. ___ EDITOR'S NOTE — This story is part of "China's Reach," a project tracking China's influence on its trading partners over three decades and exploring how it is changing business, politics and daily life. Keep up with AP's reporting on China's Reach, and join the conversation about it, using (hash)APChinaReach on Twitter. ___ Soaring coal prices fueled by China's economic growth have made mining parts of the Australian landscape far more lucrative than farming it. It's one example of how China's emergence as a global trading power may transform countries in ways never contemplated and not yet fully understood. The Associated Press analyzed China's trade with other countries as a percentage of their gross domestic product, using an International Monetary Fund database. It found that, on average, trade with China had climbed to 12.4 percent of GDP by 2011. By comparison, the peak reached with the U.S. in the past 30 years was 10 percent in 2001. In Australia, where trade with China hit 7.7 percent of GDP last year, exports of coal and iron ore have helped Australia fend off recession for 21 years and deliver the largest trade surpluses in 140 years of record-keeping. China's rapid rise has given Australia its strongest terms of trade since a global wool boom in the 1950s, says economist Peter Robertson at the University of Western Australia. "That boom was fairly short-lived," he wrote in an email response to questions. "This one's length is unknown. It may turn out much bigger depending on China's future growth." The former British colony's relationship with China is deepening in other ways too: — More than 29,000 Chinese became permanent residents in the year ending June 30, 2011, for the first time eclipsing the United Kingdom, the traditional source of migrants. While India topped China in the next 12-month period, that appears to have been a blip. — China accounted for nearly two-thirds of the 10,407 business visas in the most recent year — investors and entrepreneurs either given residency or put on a likely path to it. "Here we have China not only being out biggest trading partner, it is now the major source of migrants and the major source of international students studying here," says Peter Drysdale, an emeritus professor of economics at Australian National University. "The study leads to migration leads to investment, leads to the deepening of the economic relationship and the interaction between the communities," he adds. "The scale of it is ... now starting to cover a space that historically the relationship with the United Kingdom covered." In eastern Australia, the China boom is reawakening the sleepy town of Gunnedah. Construction workers and surveyors in high-visibility, fluorescent green shirts are a common sight, a constant reminder that the plans to mine are the cause of the economic resurgence. Not everyone is happy. The prospect of mining has divided the town of 12,000, including members of the extended Clift clan. There are fears that coal dust, endless coal trains and damage to the aquifers could forever alter a pastoral way of life, perhaps even make it untenable. Shenhua spokeswoman Melanie Layton says the land will return to farming after the 30-year life of the mines. Gunnedah, whose previous heyday came during the 1950s wool boom, may be undergoing one of its biggest transformations since it was settled in 1856, says Adam Marshall, who stepped down as mayor in September. "We did have a mini coal boom in the early 1980s, but nothing on the scale which we're seeing now." Coal mining has a long history in Australia, but never before has it encroached on such prime farmland as the Liverpool Plains, a 4,800-square-mile (12,400-square-kilometer) flatland bordered by mountain ridges and dotted with volcanic hills about 275 miles north of Sydney. Shenhua Watermark, a subsidiary of state-owned China Shenhua Energy, the world's biggest coal mining company, spent 167 million Australian dollars (more than $170 million) to buy 43 farms covering 36,300 acres. Ex-mayor Marshall says sellers told him Shenhua paid several times market value. George Clift, 83, who refused to sell, is upset that his cousin Tony did. "You're supposed to hand it down to the next generation, so if you're not going to do that, you shouldn't have been handed the land in the first place," he says. "I'm very, very sad to see how everything's turning out for the next generation; we've seen the best of Australia and I think it's only going to deteriorate from here on." Tony Clift says he believes the state would have forced him to allow mining anyway — and probably for less compensation than Shenhua paid for the land. Mining companies can take landowners to court if the two sides can't agree on access to the land. "Yeah, it causes some problems in the family. That's life," Tony Clift says. "I'd rather take the money and run now than watch my whole block get dug up." Japan's heady growth powered a boom in the 1980s, but trade with China, which dethroned Japan as Australia's top trading partner in 2009, appears headed even higher. The 7.7 percent of GDP it reached in 2011 eclipsed Japan's average of 6.4 percent in the 1980s and even its peak of 7.4 percent in 1985. One quarter of Australian exports are now shipped to China. Mark Beeson, a political scientist at the University of Western Australia, injects a note of caution: Resource booms are often followed by busts. Commodity prices have already come off highs as global mine production catches up with Chinese demand and the global economy has slowed. Some companies have shelved mine expansion plans. But the outlook for investment remains strong, the Australian government says, with about AU$500 billion in projects still in the pipeline. "There're lots of things that could go wrong, of course, but if it carries on, it's going to get more and more important," Beeson says. In some ways, it already is: Turf wars between farmers and miners have triggered a national debate over agricultural land use, a rarity for such a sparsely populated country. In October the government announced plans to create a national register of foreign-owned farmland amid concern that such record-keeping has been piecemeal in the past. Not since the 1950s, before the modern, free-trade era, has a country done more trade with Australia as a percent of GDP. Then, Australian trade policy gave Great Britain preferential treatment and put the needs of the British Empire ahead of national interests. At the peak of a Korean War wool boom, trade with Britain reached as high as 19.5 percent of GDP, according to Australian government statistics. Though Great Britain and the United States remain far more pervasive influences, China is becoming part of the political and social fabric in Australia, says Chen Jie, a lecturer on international relations at the University of Western Australia. He notes that lawmakers now visit China at the invitation of business interests there, influencing Australian politics. "It's a new phenomenon. It's challenging some of the old assumptions in Australia," he says. Including the price of land in Gunnedah. Paul Smyth almost fell off his harvester and into a crop of sunflowers when a Shenhua representative called him on his cellphone two years ago to offer AU$6 million for his 1,100-acre farm — quadruple its market value. Smyth had bought the farm 12 years earlier for around AU$700,000. "You'll have to run that past me again; I'm in a very noisy machine," he recalls saying. "I heard him first up, but I just couldn't believe my ears." He adds: "If I lived two or three lifetimes there, I would never see a farmer come along and want to buy it at that price." Once word got around that he had sold, others who had once greeted him with a friendly "G'day" stopped acknowledging him. "If I was in their shoes, I'd be exactly the same way, I guess," says Smyth, who has retired at 57 and moved to a 3-acre property near the coast. Those who remain are in limbo. Shenhua has completed exploratory drilling after paying New South Wales state AU$300 million for exploration rights, but it won't be able to mine unless it wins state environmental approval for what would be three open-cut pits. With the future uncertain, farmers don't want to invest in improving their farms, and no one wants to buy them. The affected include those who chose not to sell and others who were never given the choice, because they live on the periphery of the actual coal mining zone. "I've got 1,000 hectares of land that's irrigated from underneath," says Andrew Pursehouse, whose farm lies outside the zone but under ridges that Shenhua plans to excavate. "If something happens to that water resource, my land is going to be worth only a third of what it is now." Layton, the Shenhua spokeswoman, says the company may buy more farms in the years ahead if they are affected by dust and noise. The company plans to mine the ridges and leave the soil untouched and plant trees for those it destroys. Smyth misses the Liverpool Plains, but he doesn't believe that farming and mining can coexist. "I think that's just a pie in the sky pretty picture that they paint," he says. "I think it should be left alone. I feel guilty in lots of ways because I was one of the ones that weakened and got out of there." Associated Press ============= FACTBOX-Australia coal projects compete with farms Mon, Mar 01 01:12 AM EST SYDNEY, March 1 (Reuters) - Proposed new coal mines in Australia pose a threat to some of the country's most productive agricultural land, farmers say. They argue the planned giant mines could damage water aquifers that sustain the rich black soil country in the Gunnedah Basin, in the north-west of the eastern state of New South Wales, some 330 km distant from Sydney. For accompanying analysis, click on [ID:nSGE61O00R] Here are some facts about the projects and the region. Projects: Caroona - 100 percent owned by the world's largest diversified miner, BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L): * BHP was awarded an exploration licence in 2006 to look for coal over 344 sq kms, paying some A$100million ($89 million) for the licence area, which could contain more than 500 million tonnes of coal. * The group plans to develop an underground mine to extract coal via a longwall mining system. * The group hopes mining will run for 30-50 years. * Project cost is currently estimated at around $2 billion. * BHP supports an independent water catchment study before undertaking development and will contribute to the study's cost. * The group plans to ship its coal via the port of Newcastle, about 160 kilometres north of Newcastle. Watermark - 100 percent owned by China's state-owned Shinhua Corp * Shinhua was awarded an exploration licence to look for coal over a 195 sq km area, agreeing to pay around A$600 million for the licence area and to develop infrastructure needed to transport coal to the port of Newcastle. * The company plans to develop an open cut mine should its exploration program be successful. * Shenhua says it will only mine the ridge country but will need to do some investigative work on the more productive black soil to get a thorough understanding of the underground water system. * Shenhua has given landholders within the targeted mining area within the exploration lease the choice to sell their property up-front. * There is estimated to be around 500 million tonnes of coal within the Watermark licence area with a potential mine life of around 50 years. * Should a viable mine be identified and subject to the issue of all necessary approvals, Shenhua anticipates construction of the mine to start in 2012, with mine production to start in 2013. * Oil and gas companies, such as Australia's second largest listed oil and gas group Santos Ltd (STO.AX), are also hoping to develop coal seam gas projects within the region but have met strong opposition from the community as well as green groups, over concerns that coal seam gas extraction will sully the region's water quality. Agriculture in the Gunnedah Basin * The Gunnedah Basin contains the Liverpool Plains, comprising fertile black soil used to grow both winter crops such as wheat as well as summer crops including cotton and sorghum. * Beneath the surface run large water aquifers that farmers tap, making the area less prone to drought. * The basin also includes less fertile ridge country, used for cattle and sheep farming. * The region's wheat output accounts for about 1.3 million tonnes of around 22 million tonnes of grain produced in a good year, with the areas directly affected by the mining proposals producing about 275,000 tonnes. * While not a large portion of Australia's overall crop, the region's high-protein grain is highly sought by flour millers and pasta makers. * The region also also accounts for about half of Australia's cotton output and is also a big producer of sorghum, barley, oats, sunflowers, soybeans and corn. ($1=A$1.11) (Editing by Clarence Fernandez) ===================

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Sandy is going to bring for Obama, Clinton



View Larger Map Posted 26 October 2012 - 11:05 AM The traditional two-horse race for the White House is anything but exciting to Arabs, this time. Contrary to the last election where Arabs and Muslims were vehemently against John McCain whom they considered as an extension of the practices of the most hated US president G.W. Bush and went to support an African American Obama. Arabs have mistakenly thought that Obama will offer a fresh start away from the extremists and war mongers of the Republican Party. But following the election, Obama fell in the nest of Washington D.C. Zionist snakes and went to use all the powers of the US and its allies to embrace Israeli designs for the area; in killing Arabs and Muslims and in tolerating expanding the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Obama even vetoed allowing Palestine to have an irrelevant status in the UN, although Palestine was there years before the establishment of Israel. So his speech in Cairo announcing a new beginning was no more than hot air. In reality, neither Romney nor Obama will be able to change US policy towards the Middle East which is controlled by the Jewish lobby. This policy has started to undermine US friends, to encourage extremism and to threaten the vital strategic US interests. Right now, the Americans are waiting for the Israelis to attack Iran so that they can declare a war in defending the Israeli aggressors. The oil prices will go sky-high, countries of US allies in the Persian Gulf will sustain damage at the time bankrupt America can ill afford such a conflict. Many anti-US Arabs and Muslim pray that Romney will manage to defeat Obama, the preacher of false hope. Romney, will be just another swash buckling George Bush who will bankrupt America and sell it to the Chinese, as long as he makes some personal profits. Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times Posted 20 September 2012 - 09:47 AM It is puzzling why Hilary Clinton fails to understand the Muslims’ reaction? The common American citizen is close to being brain washed, believing that the US is a force for the good of people giving generous aids, spreading democracy and liberating countries. Naturally, the US media, controlled by moguls and power centres, share the blame for not telling the people the other side of US foreign policy. During the cold war, the Americans were supporting autocrats and despot, the likes of Pinochet, Carlos, the Shah, the Saudi Royal Family and General Mobuto; of Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, respectively. CIA agents had been involved in assassinating intellectuals and opponents of US foreign policy. After September 11, the war on terror was translated into a war on Islam and Muslims. Kidnapping and torturing of Muslims were practiced on a very large scale. Most of the economic sanctions were imposed on Muslim countries. Three Muslim countries, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were destroyed and their governments were toppled. Syria is on its way to qualify as a failed state. The US drones continue to Kill Muslims. Not to mention the way passengers with Muslim names are treated as criminals at the US borders. The US anti Arab and anti Muslim practices are clearly demonstrated in the refusal of the US to accept Palestine as a member of the UN and for supporting the Israeli crimes in Gaza. Thanks to Wikileaks.com, a large number of US conspiracies and atrocities were exposed. If Hilary Clinton is oblivious to these facts, one must feel sorry for the hapless people living in the Bible Belt of America. Israel is a rogue state in breach of 39 UN Security Council Resolutions. It develps and stockpiles all types of Weapons of Mass Destruction, including Nuclear Warheads. It occupies other people's territories. And as Jewish Professor Kissinger was quated in saying that Israel may not be there in 10 years. Believe me, no Arab is jealous of Israel or the highly-militarised fascist-like state. By the way, call any American in the bible belt a Jew and see where he/she spits. Israel operates like a mafia extorting aids from other counries using US influence. It is a fact that if a country wants favours with America it has to have good relations to Israel. But for how long can America afford subsidising Israeli aggressive policies? The answer is with Dr Kissinger. Adnan Darwash Iraq Occupation Times ======= Huge Hurricane Sandy bears down on East Coast Sun, Oct 28 11:00 AM EDT 1 of 21 By Gene Cherry HATTERAS ISLAND, North Carolina (Reuters) - Hurricane Sandy could be the biggest storm to hit the United States mainland when it comes ashore on Monday night, bringing strong winds and dangerous flooding to the East Coast from the mid-Atlantic states to New England, forecasters said on Sunday. Sandy could have a brutal impact on major cities in the target zone like Boston, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, one of the most densely populated regions of the country. New York City's subway, bus and train service will be suspended on Sunday evening, which could bring the country's financial nerve center to a standstill. The major Wall Street exchanges said they planned to open as usual on Monday because they have alternate facilities they can use. The Obama administration estimated it could affect 50 million people, and the storm was already disrupting transportation systems. More than 700 flights, including international ones, were canceled on Sunday and nearly 2,500 more were canceled for Monday, FlightAware.com said. Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 12 inches of rain in some areas, as well as heavy snowfall inland. "The size of this alone, affecting a heavily populated area, is going to be history making," said Jeff Masters, a hurricane specialist who writes a blog posted on the Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) New Jersey casinos were ordered to close. New Jersey officials were weighing whether to shut down that state's bus and rail systems, and emergency officials warned of widespread power outages that could last for days. "We're just asking people to be patient and be ready for a long haul. But we have a very aggressive power restoration program in place and I think we're ready," Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell told the CNN program "State of the Union." On its current projected track, Sandy is most likely to make landfall between in the New York/New Jersey area and head inland to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, forecasters said. EXCEPTIONALLY WIDE STORM Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm's impact would be felt far from the center. While Sandy's 75 mph winds were not overwhelming for a hurricane, its width made it exceptional. Hurricane-force winds extended 175 miles from its center while its lesser tropical storm-force winds spanned 1,040 miles in diameter. It was not expected to strengthen but was expected to broaden. At high tide, the storm could bring a surge of seawater up to 11 feet above normal levels to Long Island Sound and New York Harbor. "Given the large wind field associated with Sandy, elevated water levels could span multiple tide cycles, resulting in repeated and extended periods of coastal and bayside flooding," the forecasters said. Sandy was centered about 260 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, early on Sunday, the hurricane center said. The storm pushed seawater up over the barrier islands off North Carolina known as the Outer Banks. "It's flooded all over the village," longtime Ocracoke Island resident Kathleen O'Neal told Reuters via telephone. "I would say between a foot and two feet of water." Sandy was moving over the Atlantic parallel to the U.S. coast at 10 mph, but was forecast to make a tight westward turn toward the U.S. coast on Sunday night. Tropical storm conditions were spreading across the coast of North Carolina on Sunday morning and gale-force winds are forecast to begin affecting Washington, New York and southern New England by Monday. RECORD BREAKER Sandy could be the largest storm to hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) website. Sandy killed at least 66 people as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 51 in Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities. The approaching storm forced a change of plans for both presidential candidates ahead of the November 6 election. The White House said President Barack Obama canceled a campaign appearance in Virginia on Monday and another stop in Colorado on Tuesday, and will instead monitor the storm from Washington. Republican challenger Mitt Romney rescheduled campaign events planned for Virginia on Sunday and was flying to Ohio instead. All along the U.S. coast, worried residents packed stores, buying generators, candles, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages. Some local governments announced schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. "They're freaking out," said Joe Dautel, a clerk at a hardware store in Glenside, Pennsylvania. "I'm selling people four, five, six packs of batteries - when I had them." (Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, Mary Ellen Clark and Ebong Udoma in Connecticut and Will Dunham in Washington; Writing by Jane Sutton and David Adams; Editing by Sandra Maler) ========= Massive storm Sandy crashes ashore in New Jersey Mon, Oct 29 21:09 PM EDT 1 of 27 By Greg Roumeliotis and Tom Hals NEW YORK/REHOBOTH BEACH, Delaware (Reuters) - Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey, after forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign. High winds and flooding racked hundreds of miles (km) of Atlantic coastline while heavy snows were forecast farther inland at higher elevations as the center of the storm marched westward. More than 3 million customers already were left without power by early evening and more than a million people were subject to evacuation orders. Many communities were swamped by flood waters. The National Hurricane Center said Sandy came ashore as a "post-tropical cyclone," meaning it still packed hurricane-force winds but lost the characteristics of a tropical storm. It had sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, well above the threshold for hurricane intensity. The storm's target area includes big population centers such as New York City, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Trees were downed across the region, untethered pieces of scaffolding rolled down the ghostly streets of New York City, falling debris closed a major bridge in Boston and floodwater inundated side streets in the resort town of Dewey Beach, Delaware, leaving just the tops of mailboxes in view. In Fairfield, a Connecticut coastal town and major commuter point into Manhattan, police cruisers blocked the main road leading to the beaches and yellow police tape cordoned off side entrances. Beach pavilions were boarded up with plywood, and gusts of wind rocked parked cars. "People are definitely not taking this seriously enough," police officer Tiffany Barrett, 38, said. "Our worst fear is something like Katrina and we can't get to people." U.S. stock markets were closed for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and will remain shut on Tuesday. The federal government in Washington was closed and schools were shut up and down the East Coast. One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured. Governors up and down the East Coast declared states of emergency. Maryland's Martin O'Malley warned there was no question Sandy would kill people in its way. WATER RISING Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City, about 120 miles southwest of Manhattan. Casinos in Atlantic City had already shut down. Television images showed water rising to historic heights in lower Manhattan, raising the possibility of flooding in the city's subway system. New York electric utility Con Edison said it expected "record-size outages," with nearly 35,000 customers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn likely to be impacted. The company is facing both falling trees knocking down power lines from above and flood waters swamping underground systems from below. "In the olden days, you would have had lots of fatalities. We're not through this yet. ... It may be as bad of (a) storm as we've ever seen, but I would expect the damage to be relatively minor," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a Monday evening news conference. New York City evacuated neighbors of a 90-story super luxury apartment building under construction after its crane partially collapsed in high winds, prompting fears the entire rig could crash to the ground. Meteorologists say Sandy is a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm. The combination of those two storms would have been bad enough, but meteorologists said there was a third storm at play - a system coming down from Canada that would effectively trap the hurricane-nor'easter combo and hold it in place. While Sandy does not have the intensity of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, it has been gathering strength. It killed 66 people in the Caribbean last week before pounding U.S. coastal areas as it moved north. An AccuWeather meteorologist said Sandy "is unfolding as the Northeast's Katrina," and others said Sandy could be the largest storm to hit the mainland in U.S. history. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN INTERRUPTED The storm interrupted the U.S. presidential campaign with eight days to go before the election, as President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney canceled events. Both men acted cautiously to avoid coming across as overtly political while millions of people are imperiled by the storm. As runways, roads, bridges and tunnels were progressively shut down by the storm on Monday, it became difficult if not impossible to get from Washington to New York City along what is normally one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the United States. Several feet of water flooded streets in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Police knocked on doors, reminding people there was a mandatory evacuation. While the police took names, they allowed residents to stay at their own risk. Off North Carolina, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members who abandoned the replica tall ship HMS Bounty, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts. The Coast Guard later recovered the body of an "unresponsive" 42-year-old woman while continuing to search for the 63-year-old captain of the ship, which sank in 18-foot seas. Besides rain, the storms could cause up to 3 feet (1 meter) of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky. Some people in that part of the country did not have to go to work because of the storm and used the time to vote. At the Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia, early voting for the November 6 elections was going ahead despite the bad weather, with hundreds of people casting ballots. "More (people) came out today than what I anticipated but a lot of people are off work," Bonnie Woodfall, chief deputy for voter registration, said after fielding a flurry of calls about whether the polls should stay open. "It's neat." On the small New York island neighborhood of City Island, which juts into Long Island Sound east of the Bronx, many residents were ignoring a mandatory evacuation order. The narrow island, known for its seafood joints and maritime-themed antique shops, is home to an isolated, working-class community of New Yorkers who say they're used to big storms and flooding. Joe Connelly, 52, a trucker from the Bronx, was leaving the City Island Marina after checking on his two motor boats. He said he watched the water from the first storm-driven high tide swamp a nearby dock. "We were concerned that the whole dock was going to float away and out to sea," he said. "It had about four feet to go before that happened." (Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis, Edith Honan, Janet McGurty, Scott DiSavino and Martinne Geller in New York, Barbara Goldberg in New Jersey, Mary Ellen Clark and Lynnley Browning in Connecticut, Daniel Lovering in Boston, Ian Simpson in West Virginia, Susan Heavey in Washington, Jane Sutton in Miami; Writing by Paul Thomasch and Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Will Dunham) Superstorm Sandy reaches US East Coast Get short URL Link copied to clipboardemail story to a friend print version Published: 30 October, 2012, 04:12 Edited: 30 October, 2012, 07:58 TAGS: Weather, USA, Marina Portnaya, Thabang Motsei Water rushes into the Carey Tunnel (previously the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel), caused by Hurricane Sandy, October 29, 2012, in the Financial District of New York. (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton) (31.5Mb) embed video XEMBEDTo include this chart in your web page, paste the following HTML tag into your web page HTML: The center of superstorm Sandy has reached the US state of New Jersey. The hurricane, which was downgraded to the “post-tropical” storm, has caused 11 deaths and left over 2 million along the East Coast without power. ­The storm, packing torrential rains and wind, made landfall along the New Jersey coast near Atlantic City, the National Hurricane Center says. Earlier, the NHC said the category 1 Hurricane Sandy had lost tropical characteristics, becoming a “post-tropical cyclone” with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph and gusts reaching 115 mph. The remains of scaffolding from above a Starbucks lies on the ground in lower Manhattan as Hurricane Sandy begins to affect the area on October 29, 2012 in New York City. (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt) The storm has heavily affected many parts of New York City, with power outages and several feet of water hitting large areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Statue of Liberty's torch has gone out, apparently due to extreme weather conditions. Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that conditions are expected to worsen, urging New Yorkers to stay inside. “Conditions outside are dangerous, and they are only going to get worse in the hours ahead,” he told a press conference. Power has gone out in much of Lower Manhattan. (Image from twitter user@alananewhouse) At least 10 people have been killed by the disaster, according to AP. Casualties were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. One woman has been killed by a falling sign in Toronto as high winds reached Canada. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that subway and bus networks are suspended and will remain closed for an unknown period of time. “Service will be restored only when it is safe to do so, and after careful inspections of all equipment, tracks and other sub-systems and bus routes. Even with minimal damage this is expected to be a lengthy process,” the MTA said in a statement. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told WABC Television that subway service could be crippled for “at least a week.” There have been reports that the main building of Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital is on fire. Emergency services cannot reach the site, as the streets surrounding the hospital are flooded, Sheepshead Bites news blog reports. Meanwhile, social networks users on Manhattan's Lower East Side have reported a "huge explosion" that preceded the neighborhood's power going out. Lower Manhattan now appears to be without electricity across the board after an apparent blast at the power transformer. Watch the video of the blast below: embed video Video from YouTube user TrillianMedia 14th Street transformer explodes(Image from instagram user @georgeweld) ­As the storm pounds the East Coast, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has declared an ‘Alert’ at a power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey. “The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure,” it said in a statement. A police car looks out over Manhattan from near the Brooklyn Bridge as Hurricane Sandy begins to affect the area on October 29, 2012 in the in Brooklyn of New York City. (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt) Flood waters from Hurricane Sandy rushing in to the Hoboken PATH station through an elevator shaft on October 29, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (AFP Photo) Flooded cars, caused by Hurricane Sandy, are seen on October 29, 2012, in the Financial District of New York, United States. (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton) Power outage seen on October 29, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. (AFP Photo / Allison Joyce) ============ October 29, 2012 Updated: October 29, 2012 | 11:29 pm Adjust Text Size NormalLargerLargestHurricane Sandy: Woman killed by flying debris in Toronto By Staff The Canadian Press Share this Article Toronto Police sit at a taped off Staples outlet parking lot after strong storm winds caused a piece of a sign to fall, killing one, in Toronto on Oct. 29, 2012. The Canadian Press/Victor Biro Previous photo Next photo Related: Southwestern N.S. bracing for a blast from monster hurricaneHurricane Sandy: NYC mayor says power out at major hospitalSuperstorm Sandy slams into New Jersey coast TORONTO – Toronto police say a woman has been killed by a falling sign as high winds from approaching post-tropical storm Sandy whip the city. A police spokesman says winds were about 65 kilometres per hour in the area at the time the woman was hit by flying debris while walking along a west-end street. He said he didn’t have more information as investigators were still on the scene. Related: •Southwestern N.S. bracing for a blast from monster hurricane •Hurricane Sandy: NYC mayor says power out at major hospital •Superstorm Sandy slams into New Jersey coast People across central and eastern Canada are bracing for wild weather as Sandy is set to arrive early Tuesday with powerful winds and a deluge of rain. Officials have warned residents in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes to prepare, though the East Coast of the United States will bear the brunt of the unusually large storm. Sandy, which forecasters have downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm, made landfall in New Jersey early Monday evening. It’s expected to continue to churn north and northwest, lashing parts of Canada starting Monday night. Southern Ontario and Quebec will likely see the strongest winds, with gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour and between 20 to 40 millimetres of rain, although higher amounts are possible in some areas. That will make for a soggy day, but that level isn’t enough to trigger a rainfall warning. Starting Tuesday morning, the Maritime provinces will see a lot more rain – up to 100 millimetres – and weaker winds than Ontario, though still strong at an expected 70 kilometres per hour. The precipitation could turn into snow over parts of Ontario and western Quebec, said Environment Canada. ==================== 'Frankenstorm' Sandy hits US: LIVE UPDATES Get short URL email story to a friendprint version Published: 29 October, 2012, 08:00 Edited: 30 October, 2012, 11:47 TAGS: Health, Natural disasters, Weather, USA (Reuters / Steve Nesius) Oct. 30, 03:45 EDT: At least 50 homes were completely destroyed by fires in New York brought on by hurricane Sandy. Oct. 30, 02:29 EDT: It could take up to four days to get the water out of the flooded NY subway tunnels, according to Metro Transit Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz. ­Oct. 30, 02:26 EDT: Woman has died after being rescued in the Atlantic along with 14 other crewmembers having abandoned HMS Bounty ship in rough Sandy weather, US Coast guard reported. Oct. 30, 02:26 EDT: Seven New York subway tunnels have been flooded as a result of Sandy. Oct. 30, 02:22 EDT: 6.5 million people are now without power across the US because of Sandy. Oct. 30, 02:10 EDT: Sandy is estimated to cost insurers somewhere between $5-10 billion, Wall Street Journal reports. Oct. 30, 01:51 EDT: Post-tropical storm Sandy is now located just south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Oct. 30, 01:31 EDT: Reports of major fire in the Rockaway Park area of Queens, New York. Oct. 30, 00:35 EDT: Sandy death toll reaches 13 nationwide. Oct. 30, 00:19 EDT: 5.8 million people left without power nationwide from Sandy as of midnight. Oct. 30, 00:05 EDT: Dozens of ambulances are evacuating NYU hospital patients to Sloan Kettering and Mt. Sinai hospitals due to a generator failure. Paramedics evacuate patients from New York University Tisch Hospital due to a power outage as Hurricane Sandy makes its approach in New York October 29, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly) Oct. 30, ­00:01 EDT: Power has been lost at the New York University Hospital in Lower Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg says the city will now start evacuating people from the facility. ­ Oct. 29, 23:53 EDT : Up to 14 inches of snow reported in Tucker County, West Virginia – Weather Channel ­Oct. 29, 23:41 EDT: More than 1.5 million people in New York State are without power, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted. ­Oct. 29, 23:11 EDT: As the storm pounds the East Coast, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has declared an "Alert" at a power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey. “The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure,” the agency said in a statement. Oct. 29, 23:00 EDT: 911 is receiving 10,000 calls per half hour, NYC Mayor’s Office reports. ­Oct. 29, 22:55 EDT: The main building of Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital is on fire, local news blog Sheepshead Bites reports. Emergency services cannot reach the site, as the streets surrounding the hospital are flooded. Oct. 29, 22:26 EDT: At least 10 people have been killed by the disaster, according to AP. Casualties were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. One woman has been killed by a falling sign in Toronto as high winds reached Canada. Oct. 29, 22:20 EDT: Reports of flooding from Sandy in PATH train stations in Hoboken and Jersey City along the Hudson River. This CCTV photo released by the official Twitter feed of The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey shows flood waters from Hurricane Sandy rushing in to the Hoboken PATH station through an elevator shaft on October 29, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (AFP Photo/The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey) ­Oct. 29, 22:19 EDT: The National Weather Service confirms that high tide has passed in New York City, and water should begin receding from Lower Manhattan. ­Oct. 29, 22:05 EDT: A New York Stock Exchange official has told ABC News that prior reports of flooding on the exchange's floor off Wall Street in Lower Manhattan are "egregiously false." ­Oct. 29, 22:00 EDT: The death toll in New York City due to Sandy has now reached five. ­Oct. 29, 21:40 EDT: At least one man has been killed after a tree fell on his house in the Queens section of New York City. Oct. 29, 20:47 EDT: An explosion took place at a Con Edison power station in Manhattan, New York. ­Oct. 29, 20:45 EDT: Social networks users on Manhattan's Lower East Side are reporting a "huge explosion" that preceded power going out. (Image from instagram user@georgeweld) ­Oct. 29, 20:35 EDT: Power has gone out in much of Lower Manhattan, though it has not been confirmed whether it was an outage or an intentional shutdown by Consolidated Edison. (Image from twitter user@ alananewhouse) Oct. 29, 20:30 EDT: ­The Statue of Liberty's torch has gone out. It was followed by flickering lights across Lower Manhattan, and what appeared to be two explosions in the sky over New Jersey, close to New York City. Oct. 29, 20:14 EDT: ­The center of superstorm Sandy has reached the US state of New Jersey, the National Hurricane Center says. Oct. 29, 20:00 EDT: ­ In Manhattan's East Village district, streets two blocks in from the East River are under roughly two feet of water, according to pictures circulating on Twitter. (Image from twitter user@carloswhitt) Oct. 29, 19:54 EDT: ­NYC's Robert F. Kennedy Bridge has been shut down due to winds exceeding 100 mph, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reports. Oct. 29, 19:51 EDT: NYC's utilities provider, Consolidated Edison, cuts power to part of lower Manhattan to avoid storm damage. Oct. 29, 19:42 EDT: ­The storm caused a faƧade of an entire building to collapse in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. Watch the video: embed video Oct. 29, 19:17 EDT: ­Sandy is no longer a hurricane, but a "post-tropical" storm and is expected to make landfall in about an hour, the National Hurricane Center says. Oct. 29, 19:15 EDT: Consolidated Edison, New York City's utilities provider, is calling residents in low-lying parts of the city to warn that power could be shut off before the end of the night. Oct 29, 18:50 EDT: ­More than 12,000 flights have been grounded as Hurricane Sandy pounds the US East Coast on Monday. Oct. 29, 18:32 EDT: ­Sandy has so far left more than 1.5 million people without power in 11 states along the East Coast. Oct. 29, 18:17 EDT: Mayor Michael Bloomberg warns that conditions are expected to worsen, urging New Yorkers to stay inside. “Conditions outside are dangerous, and they are only going to get worse in the hours ahead,” he told a press conference. Oct. 29, 18:10 EDT: The United Nations headquarters in Manhattan will remain closed through Tuesday due to the weather. Oct. 29, 17:56 EDT: ­All Broadway performances in NYC have been cancelled on Monday and Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy, the Broadway League says. Oct. 29, 17:30 EDT: ­Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall around 6 pm EST just outside Atlantic City, New Jersey. Sandy is moving "quickly" towards southern New Jersey and Delaware, The National Hurricane Center says. ­Oct. 29, 17:00 EDT: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo orders the closing of several NYC bridges, except those in Staten Island. President Obama receives an update on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy in the Situation Room. (Image from twitter.com/whitehouse) Oct. 29, 16:09 EDT: Hurricane Sandy has left more than 765,000 customers in ten states without power. The affected states include NY, NJ, MA, PA, CT, DE, MD, RI, NH, ME and Washington, DC. Waves crash over Winthrop Shore Drive as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast on October 29, 2012 in Winthrop, Massachusetts. (AFP Photo / Darren Mccollester) Oct. 29, 16:00 EDT: Windows have been blown out of buildings in New London, Connecticut, as the center of the storm is moving toward Cape May, NJ. Landfall is expected in 2-3 hours. Oct. 29, 15:57 EDT: Schools in Washington DC will be closed Tuesday. Oct. 29, 15:51 EDT: US Federal Government offices are to be closed Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy. People brave high winds and waves along Winthrop Shore Drive as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast on October 29, 2012 in Winthrop, Massachusetts. (AFP Photo / Darren Mccollester) Oct. 29, 15:48 EDT: New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River will be closed at 4pm Monday due the to weather conditions, says NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Oct. 29, 15:43 EDT: Battery Park in NYC is now six feet above normal tide level; the water is rising rapidly, reports TWC. People walk down a flooded street as Hurricane Sandy moves up the coast on October 29, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (AFP Photo / Getty images / Mario Tama) ­Oct. 29, 15:32 EDT: Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) are added to the list of airports without flights. Oct. 29, 15:27 EDT: Sandy’s center is just 3-5 hours from landfall in southern New Jersey, says the National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected to slow on Tuesday. Oct. 29, 15:23 EDT: Amtrak has canceled all Tuesday service due to high winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy. Passenger service between Boston and Raleigh, NC, and between the East Coast and Chicago, New Orleans and Florida will be suspended for the second day in a row. Passengers who paid but did not travel because of the service disruption will receive a refund or a voucher for future travel, the company said in a statement. Oct. 29, 15:11 EDT: Emergency workers have been summoned to a 65-story building in New York City, where winds have apparently broken a construction crane. The crane's arm is dangling dangerously. Winds in Manhattan have been blowing at about 20 mph with gusts reaching 40 mph. Officials have ordered evacuation of upper floors of several buildings near the site. "High crane on top of a building on W 57th street is breaking" (Image from twitter user@57UN) ­Oct. 29, 14:58 EDT: Chesapeake Bay Bridge gets closed as winds there exceed 55 mph. Oct. 29, 14:41 EDT: Hurricane-force wind gusts hit the New Jersey shore, reports TWC. The hurricane's center is heading for toward southern NJ. Oct. 29, 14:33 EDT: Ocean City, Maryland, is set to go through probably the highest storm surge since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, says Mayor Rick Meehan. Sandy is forecast to impact the city for at least another 12 hours and has already caused significant flooding. A woman holds the hand of her child as they run from their house to their car before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy in Scituate, Massachusetts October 29, 2012. (Reuters / Jessica Rinaldi) Oct. 29, 14:21 EDT: The number of customers without power hits 300,000 in seven states, reports CNN. A large plurality of them – 92,000 – are in New Jersey, followed by New York with 90,000. Oct. 29, 14:17 EDT: The hurricane is about 110 miles southeast of Atlantic City, NJ, and about 175 miles south-southeast of New York City, according to the National Hurricane Center. Oct. 29, 14:10 EDT: Sandy's landfall is expected to hit south of Atlantic City, NJ, at around 6pm. From then until midnight, New York City is expected to see the worst of the storm. Water driven onto a roadway by Hurricane Sandy breaks over a safety barrier in Southampton, New York, October 29, 2012. (Reuters / Lucas Jackson) Oct. 29, 14:02 EDT: Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall early Monday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm's maximum sustained winds are now at 90 mph (145 kmph); the hurricane is moving northwest at the speed of 28 mph (45 kmph). A man stands on the beach as heavy surf from Hurricane Sandy pound the shoreline, on October 29, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson) ============== Sandy strikes in Canada too, far from storm's center Tue, Oct 30 13:26 PM EDT 1 of 4 By Rod Nickel (Reuters) - More than 100,000 Canadians were still without power on Tuesday after the huge storm Sandy toppled trees and power lines in Canada's most populous provinces, killed one person, and halted units at an Ontario refinery. But Canada was far from the center of the storm and the impact was tiny compared to the vast outages and widespread flooding seen in the U.S. East Coast on Monday and Tuesday. The weakened storm is expected bring rain to Eastern Canada and Quebec on Tuesday and into Wednesday. One woman was killed when she was struck by a sign in a Toronto shopping mall parking lot on Monday night, when Ontario officials had warned people to stay inside. By late morning on Tuesday, power had been restored to nearly half of the 60,000 Toronto residents who lost electricity. But the local utility said some people might be without power until Thursday evening. At least 150,000 Canadians lost power during the worst of the storm. The Toronto Stock Exchange was open for trading on Tuesday, making it a North American island of equity trading for the second successive day, with U.S. stock markets again closed. Air Canada, WestJet Airlines, Porter Airlines canceled dozens of flights, most of them to cities in the east of the United States. "It's been a long night," said Mike Bradley, mayor of the Lake Huron border city of Sarnia, Ontario, where winds are expected to gust to 100 km/h (60 mph) on Tuesday. "Waves were running from six to nine meters, which people around here cannot remember for at least a generation," he told CBC. Several units at Imperial Oil Ltd's 121,000 barrel a day refinery at Sarnia were shut down in the outage. Power was later restored and the company said it planned to restart some of the units. On the St Lawrence Seaway, a critical freight waterway shared by Canada and the United States, some vessels chose to anchor due to high winds, and 12 were delayed as of Tuesday morning, said Andrew Bogora, spokesman for the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. The Seaway remained open. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Janet Guttsman and David Brunnstrom) ========= AIR Worldwide says Sandy insured loss up to $15 billion Tue, Oct 30 19:53 PM EDT (Reuters) - Hurricane Sandy caused anywhere from $7 billion to $15 billion in U.S. onshore insured losses, disaster modeling firm AIR Worldwide said on Tuesday. That estimate does not include residential flood losses or any losses from flooded subways or tunnels, AIR said. (Reporting By Ben Berkowitz) ========= Obama and Christie make unlikely traveling companions Tue, Oct 30 18:12 PM EDT By Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - No one's calling it a "campaign" event. But it will surely dominate the presidential campaign on Wednesday when Democratic President Barack Obama and New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie inspect storm damage in the hard hit coastal state - together. Had Obama been traveling with any old Republican governor, few would have taken notice. But Christie is not any old governor. He's young, at 50, and a possible Republican presidential contender as soon as 2016, should Mitt Romney happen to lose. And he's not just any critic of Obama. As keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in August, he was the party's critic-in-chief. Christie has continued to play that role as one of the highest-profile surrogates for the Republican presidential nominee, Romney. Indeed, it would be hard to find a more unlikely duo six days before a presidential election - and Christie knows it. "If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me," Christie said Tuesday. He was responding not to the announcement of the joint tour, which had yet to become public, but to questions about all the praise he has been heaping on Obama during and after Sandy hit New Jersey. The unlikely partnership began just hours after the worst of the storm knocked out power for 2.4 million people in New Jersey, south and west of New York City. Christie was quick to applaud Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in interviews on major television networks on Tuesday morning. "The federal government response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally," he told NBC's "Today" program. "The president has been outstanding in this. The folks at FEMA ... have been excellent," said Christie, once thought to be a contender for the White House this time around or possibly Romney's vice presidential pick. "I don't give a damn about Election Day. It doesn't matter a lick to me at the moment," Christie later told reporters in a press conference about the storm damage. "I've got bigger fish to fry." Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night, leaving behind a trail of flooded homes, toppled trees and downed power lines in the nation's most densely populated region. At least 30 people were reported killed along the eastern seaboard. Obama's handling of the storm's aftermath and Romney's response to it have the potential to become political issues, and both campaigns are taking care to avoid missteps. The president again canceled his formal campaign activities for Wednesday to deal with storm recovery efforts. Romney on Tuesday transformed what was intended originally to be a campaign stop into a storm relief event in Ohio. Liberal group Americans United for Change was quick to circulate Christie's comments. Earlier on "CBS This Morning," Christie said he spoke with Obama three times on Monday as the storm hit. Obama declared New Jersey a major disaster area so the state can quickly receive federal aid. "I can't thank the president enough for that," Christie told CBS. And what about Romney? Asked on FOX News on Tuesday whether he would tour stricken parts of his state with the Republican nominee, Christie said: "I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I've got a job to do here in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff," he said. (Reporting By Susan Heavey; Editing by Fred Barbash and Claudia Parsons) ========== Millions in U.S. Northeast struggle after massive storm Wed, Oct 31 00:14 AM EDT 1 of 37 By Martinne Geller and Emily Flitter and Dhanya Skariachan NEW YORK (Reuters) - The northeastern United States battled epic flood waters and lengthy power outages on Tuesday after the massive storm Sandy pummeled the coast with a record storm surge, high winds and heavy rains that killed at least 45 people and caused billion of dollars in losses. Millions of people in New York City and other hard-hit areas will spend days or weeks recovering from a storm already seen as far more destructive that Hurricane Irene, which slammed into the same region a year ago. One disaster modeling company said Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses. The storm killed 18 people in New York City, among 23 total in New York state, while six died in New Jersey. Seven other states reported fatalities. Some 8.2 million homes and businesses in several states were without electricity as trees toppled by Sandy's fierce winds took down power lines. Sandy hit the coast with a week to go to the November 6 presidential election and turned its fury inland with heavy snowfall, dampening an unprecedented drive to encourage early voting and raising questions whether some polling stations will be ready to open on Election Day. New York City will struggle without its subway system, which was inundated and will remain shut for days. Much of the Wall Street district was left underwater but officials hoped to have financial markets reopen on Wednesday. Sandy was the biggest storm to hit the country in generations when it crashed ashore with hurricane-force winds on Monday near the New Jersey gambling resort of Atlantic City, devastating the Jersey Shore tourist haven. Flood waters lifted parked cars and deposited them on an otherwise deserted highway. With the political campaign and partisanship on hold, Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie planned to tour New Jersey disaster areas on Wednesday. "It's total devastation down there. There are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean," said Peter Sandomeno, an owner of the Broadway Court Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Christie, who has been a strong supporter of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, praised Obama and the federal response to the storm. Obama and Romney put campaigning on hold for a second day but Romney planned to hit the trail again in Florida on Wednesday and Obama seemed likely to resume campaigning on Thursday for a final five-day sprint to Election Day. Obama faces political danger if the government fails to respond well, as was the case with predecessor George W. Bush's botched handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Obama has a chance to show that his administration has learned the lessons of Katrina and that he can lead during a crisis. NEW YORK UNDER WATER Sandy brought a record storm surge of almost 14 feet to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said. The storm forced New York City to postpone its traditional Halloween parade, which had been set for Wednesday night in Greenwich Village and threatened to disrupt Sunday's New York City marathon. The lower half of Manhattan went dark when surging seawater flooded a substation and as power utility Consolidated Edison shut down others pre-emptively. Some 250,000 customers lost power. Fire ravaged the Breezy Point neighborhood in the borough of Queens, destroying 110 homes and damaging 20 while destroying still more in the nearby neighborhood of Belle Harbor. Remarkably, no fatalities were reported. "To describe it as looking like pictures we've seen of the end of World War Two is not overstating it," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after touring the area. "The area was completely leveled. Chimneys and foundations were all that was left of many of these homes." Hospitals closed throughout the region, forcing patients to relocate and doctors to carry premature babies down more than a dozen flights of stairs at one New York City facility. While some parts of the city went unscathed, neighborhoods along the East and Hudson rivers bordering Manhattan were underwater and expected to be without power for days, as were low-lying streets in Battery Park near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center stood before the September 11, 2001, attacks. "I'm lucky to have gas; I can make hot water. But there is no heating and I'm all cold inside," said Thea Lucas, 87, who lives alone in Manhattan's Lower East Side. DESTRUCTION THROUGHOUT REGION Airlines canceled more than 18,000 flights, though two of the New York City area's three major airports planned to reopen with limited service on Wednesday. Cellphone service went silent in many states and some emergency call centers were affected. Some cities like Washington, Philadelphia and Boston were mostly spared but he storm reached as far inland as Ohio and parts of West Virginia were buried under 3 feet (1 meter) of snow, a boon for ski resorts that was one of the storm's few bright spots. The western extreme of Sandy's wind field buffeted the Great Lakes region, according to Andrew Krein of the National Weather Service, generating wind gusts of up to 60 mph on the southern end of Lake Michigan and up to 35 mph Chicago. In Cleveland, buildings in the city's downtown area were evacuated due to flooding, police said. Winds gusting to 50 mph brought down wires and knocked out power to homes and business. City officials asked residents to stay inside and for downtown businesses to remained closed for the day. Amid the devastation there was opportunity. Snowmakers at Snowshoe Mountain in the mountains of West Virginia had their equipment running at full speed on Tuesday, taking advantage of the cold temperatures to build the 24-30 inch base they need to open for skiing by Thanksgiving. "There are snowmakers out there making snow in what was a hurricane and blizzard," said Dave Dekema, marketing director for the resort, which received a foot-and-a-half of snow, with another foot or two expected. The resort's phones, email account and Facebook pages were "going crazy," Dekema said, with avid skiers and snowboarders wondering if there was any chance of getting out on the mountain this weekend. He said that was unlikely. (Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Ilaina Jonas, Daniel Bases, Lucas Jackson, Edward Krudy and Scott DiSavino in New York; Ian Simpson in West Virginia; Diane Bartz and Andrea Shalal-Esa in Washington; Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Susan Guyett in Indianapolis; Kim Palmer in Cleveland and James B. Kelleher in Chicago. Writing by Daniel Trotta and Ros Krasny; Editing by Bill Trott) ======================= Northeast back to business after Sandy's hard hit Wed, Oct 31 05:07 AM EDT 1 of 37 By Martinne Geller, Emily Flitter and Dhanya Skariachan NEW YORK (Reuters) - Millions of people across the U.S. Northeast stricken by massive storm Sandy will attempt to resume normal lives on Wednesday as companies, markets and airports reopen, despite grim projections of power and mass transit outages lasting several more days. With six days to go before the November 6 elections, President Barack Obama will visit storm-ravaged areas of the New Jersey shore, where Sandy made landfall on Monday. His guide will be Republican Governor Chris Christie, a vocal backer of presidential challenger Mitt Romney who has nevertheless praised Obama and the federal response to the storm. Sandy, which has killed 40 people in the United States, pushed inland and dumped snow in the Appalachian Mountains. Its remains slowed over Pennsylvania, and it was expected to move north toward western New York and Canada, the National Weather Service said. Blizzard warnings and coastal flood warnings for the shores of the Great Lakes were in effect. Battered by a record storm surge of nearly 14 feet of water, swaths of New York City remained submerged under several feet of water. In the city's borough of Staten Island, police used helicopters to pluck stranded residents from rooftops. Across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey, members of the National Guard arrived to help residents pump floodwater from their homes, the city said on Twitter. More than 8.2 million homes and businesses remained without electricity across several states as trees toppled by fierce winds tore down power lines. In New Jersey, Christie said it could take seven to 10 days before power is restored statewide. Subway tracks and commuter tunnels under New York City, which carry several million people a day, were under several feet of water. In the lower half of Manhattan, a quarter million residents remained without power after a transformer explosion at a Con Edison substation Monday night. "I'M ALL COLD INSIDE"
On Manhattan's Lower East Side, one of the neighborhoods without power, 87-year-old Thea Lucas said she came outside from her apartment, where she lives alone, to warm herself up with a walk and to feed seven cats that she looks after. "I can make hot water," she said. "But there is no heating and I'm all cold inside."
In Brooklyn, a large tree fell on a house belonging to Jean-Claude Mersier, blocking the front entrance, breaking windows and crushing a car. As he hauled away its branches, Mersier said police told him it might take two weeks to a month before someone could come to remove the biggest sections of the tree. "The storm has not been good to us," he said. In Greenwich Village, where downed trees littered the streets, residents gathered around a neighborhood police station to use its power outlets to charge their cell phones. New York City likely will struggle without subways for days, authorities said. Buses were operating on a limited basis and many residents were walking long distances or scrambling to grab scarce taxi cabs on the streets. In Hoboken, a fleet of yellow cabs could be seen submerged in water nearly as high as the vehicles' windows. Despite much of the city's financial district being damaged by flooding, financial markets were scheduled to reopen on Wednesday as well. How much activity could take place remained to be seen, however, as many workers may be unlikely to get to work without subways and commuter railroads from the suburbs. In New Jersey, Christie took a helicopter tour of devastation on Tuesday along the shore, where boats were adrift, boardwalks were washed away and roads were blocked by massive sand drifts. He stopped in the badly damaged resort towns of Belmar and Avalon. "I was just here walking this place this summer, and the fact that most of it is gone is just incredible," he said at one stop. The storm killed 22 people in New York City, among 27 total in New York state, while six died in New Jersey. Seven other states reported fatalities. One disaster modeling company said Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses. Sandy hit the East Coast with a week to go to the November 6 presidential election, dampening an unprecedented drive to encourage early voting and raising questions whether some polling stations will be ready to open on Election Day. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS TO RESUME Obama faces political danger if the government fails to respond well, as was the case with his predecessor George W. Bush's botched handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Obama and Romney put campaigning on hold for a second day on Tuesday but Romney planned to hold rallies in the battleground state of Florida on Wednesday and Obama seemed likely to resume campaigning on Thursday. Sandy became the biggest storm to hit the United States in generations when it crashed ashore with hurricane-force winds on Monday near the New Jersey gambling resort of Atlantic City. Two of the area's major airports - John F. Kennedy International in New York and Newark Liberty International - planned to reopen with limited service on Wednesday. New York's LaGuardia Airport, the third of the airports that serve the nation's busiest airspace, was flooded and remained closed. Nearly 19,000 flights have been canceled since Sunday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.com. On Broadway, the Theater League announced that most shows would resume performances on Wednesday. Shows had been canceled since Sunday due to the storm. Sandy forced New York City to postpone its traditional Halloween parade, which had been set for Wednesday night in Greenwich Village. (Additional reporting by Daniel Bases, Michael Erman, Anna Louie Sussman, Atossa Abrahamian, Michelle Nichols, Ed Krudy, Chris Michaud and Scott DiSavino in New York and Ian Simpson in West Virginia; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Bill Trott) ================== Climate and cost concerns mount in wake of "superstorm" Wed, Oct 31 05:01 AM EDT 2 of 2 WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters Point Carbon) - Monday's mammoth storm that caused severe flooding, damage and fatalities to the eastern U.S. will raise pressure on Congress and the next president to address the impacts of climate change as the price tag for extreme weather disasters escalates. Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast of the United States, claiming dozens of lives so far, cutting power to over 8 million people and damaging major roadways, buildings and infrastructure, such as New York's 108-year old subway system. Eqecat, one of the three primary firms used by the insurance industry to calculate disaster exposures, said Sandy could cause anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion in insured losses and from $10 billion to $20 billion in economic losses, Reuters reported. This would outdo the roughly $4.5 billion in insured losses caused by last year's Hurricane Irene, which also hit the northeast. Sharlene Leurig, senior manager for insurance and water programs at Ceres, warned that in addition to the physical damage caused by Monday's storm, there would also be damage "on the balance sheet of taxpayers in the U.S.," raising pressure on Congress to take action on climate change. "The sort of storm we just saw is likely to be more common in some of the most populated and valuable areas of the country," she said. She said the government's national flood insurance program (NFIP) is already in nearly $20 billion in debt since 2005's Hurricane Katrina and would likely cost taxpayers more as such storms become more frequent. Some taxpayer groups have called on Congress to further reform the flood insurance program and said that reinsurance companies are better positioned to absorb the costs and risks related to extreme weather occurrences. "It appears likely that Sandy will exhaust the NFIP's remaining $3 billion of statutory borrowing authority, meaning it will need to request more money from Congress to pay its claims," said R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at free market policy research group R Street. The R Street Institute is the insurance spinoff of the Heartland Institute, a group which has funded several high-profile campaigns questioning manmade climate change, but Lehmann has said the group does not promote "climate skepticism." "In the short term, we would insist the NFIP use its existing authority to raise rates, buy reinsurance and issue catastrophe bonds, so that the private market, rather than taxpayers, assume the risk of these sorts of catastrophes in the future. Sustainablity-focused investor group Ceres said that while 2012 private insured losses were lower so far this year than last year, when floods, heat waves, tornadoes and other extreme weather events gripped the U.S., total economic losses are likely to be significant. On top of Hurricane Sandy, this year's drought alone is expected to cost insurers $20 billion, with most of those costs being shouldered by the federal crop insurance program. "This storm, taken into consideration alongside one of the most economically damaging droughts in the last century, alongside wildfires that reached catastrophic proportions in the west… really point to the need for members of Congress to start taking seriously the reality that climate change is already upon us," said Leurig. Environmental groups and some political analysts said the exclusion of the climate change issue in this year's presidential and vice presidential debates was a missed opportunity to bring the issue back into the national debate. Although the House of Representatives passed a comprehensive climate change bill in 2009, similar efforts failed in the Senate. The issue became a taboo subject after the Tea Party and some stiffly opposed Republicans ramped up efforts to derail climate legislation and regulatory programs to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Jennifer Morgan and Kevin Kennedy of the World Resources Institute, wrote in a blog post Tuesday that the silence on climate change on the campaign trail was "extremely troubling" given the recent spate of extreme weather events and their economic impacts. "We need our elected officials to break their silence on climate change. Whether climate change comes up in the final days of the campaign or not, the next president and Congress will need to step up and do more on this issue," they wrote. Former President Bill Clinton, who has been campaigning on President Barack Obama's behalf, took aim at a quip made by Republican challenger Mitt Romney at the Republican convention that the president cared more about the rise of ocean levels than families. At a campaign speech in Minnesota on Tuesday, Clinton addressed the climate impacts of Hurricane Sandy. "All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You've got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You've got to lift them up," he told the crowd. "Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this," Clinton said. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici) ========== TAKE A LOOK-Storm Sandy Thu, 1 Nov 2012 05:34 GMT Source: reuters // Reuters Millions of people across the eastern United States struggled to recover from the destruction wrought by powerful storm Sandy, which knocked out power to huge swaths of the nation's most densely populated region, swamped New York's subway system and submerged streets in Manhattan's financial district. For stories about the storm, click on the codes: TOP STORIES > Flood ebbs, U.S. Northeast picks up after epic storm > ConEd restores power to parts of lower Manhattan > U.S. eases clean gasoline rules in East after Sandy > NY's Bellevue Hospital evacuating about 500 patients > Wicked weather delays Halloween > Massive US storm was a money-making opportunity > Obama front and center in storm crisis, Romney subdued > Sandy costs NYC $200 million a day in economic damage > Sandy's hit is hard for economists to gauge > NYC subways to reopen Thur. with limited runs - Cuomo > Obama, Christie tour storm-hit New Jersey,trade praise > About 6 million remain without power in US Northeast > US ECoast fuel supply relief days away despite efforts > Romney limits attacks as U.S. recovers from Sandy > Sandy losses may be triple those of Irene > Telecomm firms restore service bit-by-bit after Sandy > Wall Street scrambles to raise cash after Sandy > Cuomo to ask Washington to cover Sandy storm costs > Sandy clouds capital outlook for NY's MTA -comptroller > New Yorkers in fuel scramble as storm-hit pumps dry up > 'Blackout City' -quieter, emptier version of Manhattan > NY commuters walk, bike, fume amid post-Sandy snarls > At Manhattan federal court, working with lights out > NYC Marathon will proceed as planned - Bloomberg > U.S. companies hustle to re-staff, reopen after Sandy > Power outage hits Knight Capital, cuts off trading EARLIER STORIES > Climate change or crap shoot?Experts weigh storm cause > US nuclear power outages are 2nd highest in decade > Storm-closed nuclear power plants may boost natgas use > Gasoline surges 5 pct on supply woes, expiry; oil up > TREASURIES-Prices up on month-end trades after storm > US lumber at 19-mth high on post-Sandy rebuilding hope > Sandy silver lining: Skiing in N.Carolina starts early > Tidal surge on river floods three New Jersey towns > Storm disrupts Northeast US telecom networks > Some train services resume along U.S. East Coast > New York's post-Sandy divide: with power or without > Sandy silences Atlantic City's casinos > Storm wallops Internet commerce > Obama, Romney put aside campaign for storm relief > For Christie, Jersey shore drama that's also political > Obama, FEMA hustle disaster aid to Sandy's aftermath > Obama and Christie make unlikely traveling companions > Huge fire in Sandy's wake destroys dozens of NYC homes > Lower Manhattan faces up to 4 days without power-ConEd > Hospitals battled to protect patients as Sandy raged > Fannie, Freddie give relief to borrowers hit by storm > New England spared flooding as Sandy clean-up begins > U.S. capital escapes worst of storm Sandy > Sandy slows final crop harvest in eastern U.S. states > For some NY workers, storm meant shared room > New Yorkers take Sandy travel challenges in stride > Crew woman dies after HMS Bounty replica sinks ANALYSIS, INSIGHT AND COLUMNS > A giant storm and the struggle over closing Wall St > Storm forces Obama to balance governing, campaigning > How to protect your storm insurance claims FACTBOXES > About 719,000 lack power in New York City area-ConEd > Massive storm Sandy blamed for 64 deaths > U.S. power outages from Sandy - Dept of Energy > East Coast refineries, pipelines,terminals post-Sandy > Some Northeast transport services return after Sandy > U.S. companies delay results due to hurricane > U.S. economic indicator release schedule > US Northeast oil terminals affected by Sandy > U.S. nuclear units affected by storm BLOG AND GRAPHICS > Reuters storm blog: http://r.reuters.com/tyj63t > Record streamflows in wake of Sandy: http://link.reuters.com/sev63t > Flights and cancellations: http://link.reuters.com/wev63t > Latest forecast, potential path of storm: http://link.reuters.com/dyp63t > Power outages: http://link.reuters.com/was63t (World Desk, Americas; +1 202 898-8457) ====================== Fuel scarce, East Coast staggers to recover from storm Thu, Nov 01 17:33 PM EDT 1 of 22 By Edith Honan and Joseph Ax NEW YORK/SEASIDE HEIGHTS, New Jersey (Reuters) - Rescuers searched flooded homes for survivors, drivers lined up for hours to get scarce gasoline and millions remained without power on Thursday as New York City and nearby towns struggled to recover from one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States. New York City subway trains crawled back to limited service after being shut down since Sunday but the lower half of Manhattan still lacked power and surrounding areas such as Staten Island, the New Jersey shore and the city of Hoboken remained crippled from a record storm surge and flooding. At least 93 people died in the "superstorm" that ravaged the northeastern United States on Monday. Officials said the number could climb as rescuers searched house-by-house through coastal towns. "I worked all my life, and everything I had is right there," said Bob Stewart, 59, standing on the Jersey Shore beach in the town of Seaside Heights and looking at the pile of debris that was once his home. "I put my life right there." The financial cost of the storm promised to be staggering. Disaster modeling company Eqecat estimated Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses, double its previous forecast. At the high end of the range, Sandy would rank as the fourth-costliest U.S. catastrophe ever, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The devastation threatened to disrupt Election Day next Tuesday, though President Barack Obama, in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, appeared to gain politically from his disaster relief performance. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a vocal Romney supporter, praised Obama, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent, endorsed Obama on Thursday. Meanwhile, the hunt for gasoline added to a climate of uncertainty as Sandy's death toll and price tag rose. "I'm so stressed out," said Jessica Bajno, 29, a school teacher from Elmont, Long Island, who was waiting in line for gas. "I've been driving around to nearby towns all morning, and being careful about not running out of gas in the process. Everything is closed. I'm feeling anxious." Some residents may lack electricity for weeks. New York utility Consolidated Edison restored power to 250,000 customers, leaving another 650,000 in the dark. The vast majority will be restored by the weekend of November 10-11 but "the remaining customer restorations could take an additional week or more," the company said. About 4.6 million homes and businesses in 15 U.S. states were without power on Thursday, down from a record high of nearly 8.5 million. More deaths were recorded overnight in the New York City borough of Staten Island, where authorities recovered 17 bodies after the storm lifted whole houses off their foundations. Among the dead were two boys, aged 4 and 2, who were swept from their mother's arms by the floodwaters, police said. In all, 38 people died in New York City, officials said. "It was like living through Titanic but on ground," said Krystina Berrios, 25, of Staten Island, looking at her bedroom caked in mud, furniture upended. "You would never think in a million years having to live through something like this." Sandy started as a late-season hurricane in the Caribbean, where it killed 69 people, before smashing ashore in the United States with 80 mph winds. It stretched from the Carolinas to Connecticut and was the largest storm by area to hit the United States in decades. JERSEY SHORE FLOORED In hard-hit New Jersey, where entire neighborhoods in oceanside towns were swallowed by seawater and the Atlantic City boardwalk was destroyed, the death toll doubled to 12. Floodwaters finally receded from the streets of Hoboken, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, leaving behind a stinky mess of submerged basements and cars littering the sidewalks. "The water was rushing in. It was like a river coming," said Benedicte Lenoble, a photo researcher from Hoboken. "Now it's a mess everywhere. There's no power. The stores aren't open. Recovery? I don't know." New Jersey favorite sons Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, along with Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel and other stars, will headline a benefit concert for storm victims Friday on NBC television, the network announced. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to cover 100 percent of emergency power and public transportation costs through November 9 for affected areas of New York and New Jersey, up from the traditional share of 75 percent. More than 36,000 disaster survivors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have applied for federal disaster assistance and more than $3.4 million in direct assistance has already been approved, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. The Pentagon was airlifting power restoration experts and trucks from California to New York to assist millions of people still living in darkness. Fuel supplies into New York and New Jersey suffered from idle refineries, a closed New York Harbor, damages to import terminals, and a closed oil pipeline. The scarcity of fuel, electricity and supplies made cleanup more daunting for barrier towns. Seaside Heights residents who obeyed the mandatory evacuation order were cut off from their homes. The entire community was submerged by the storm surge, which washed over the island and into the bay that separates it from the mainland. Chris Delman, 30, saw a photograph of his house in a local newspaper on Wednesday. It was still standing. "We ain't living in Seaside no more, that's obvious," Delman said. "I just want to know what I have left." (Additional reporting by Reuters bureaus throughout the U.S. Northeast; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jim Loney) ============== 'Frankenstorm' Sandy hits US: LIVE UPDATES Get short URL Link copied to clipboardemail story to a friend print version Published: 29 October, 2012, 08:00 Edited: 03 November, 2012, 04:28 TAGS: Health, Natural disasters, Weather, USA TRENDS: Superstorm Sandy Flooding from Hurricane Sandy can be seen in this aerial U.S. Coast Guard handout photo showing Long Island, New York, October 30, 2012. (Reuters) ­Nov. 2, 20:10 EDT: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared a limited state of energy emergency regarding the supply of motor fuel in 12 counties affected by Superstorm Sandy. "We're also implementing odd-even rationing for gas in these 12 counties," he said in his Twitter account. ­Nov. 2, 19:00 EDT: Utility workers from across the US are descending on the Northeastern states left ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, but some volunteers making the trek are being told they can’t pitch in since they don’t belong to a union. READ MORE ­Nov. 2, 17:30 EDT: New York City cancels annual marathon in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. "We have decided to cancel the NYC marathon. The New York Road Runners will have additional information in days ahead for participants," Mayor's Office tweeted. Nov. 2, 13:46 EDT: Amtrak will resume regular service between Boston, NYC and DC on Saturday. Nov. 2, 12:23 EDT: NYC Mayor Bloomberg says Con Ed hopes to restore power to most of Manhattan by midnight on Friday. Nov. 2, 12:18 EDT: Michael Bloomberg tells reporters NYC marathon is "a way for people to show solidarity", but many are outraged that resources are being spent on organizing the event rather than helping locals. Nov. 2, 11:07 EDT: New Yorkers forced to wait for fuel in mile-long lines with hundreds of vehicles, as supplies run short. Nov. 2, 10:13 EDT: US death toll from Hurrican Sandy rises to 98. Nov. 2, 08:58 EDT: New Jersey will deploy military trucks to be used as polling stations on Election Day, to replace the polling places that have lost power. Nov. 2, 07:46 EDT: Federal Communications Commission says Sandy knocked out about 25 percent of cell sites on the East Coast; towers gradually being restored to service. People wait for gas at a Hess fuelling station in Brooklyn, New York Harbor, November 2, 2012. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid) Nov. 2, 06:55 EDT: At least 90 people have been killed by Hurricane Sandy across the US, as more dead bodies are discovered during clean-up operations. Nov. 2, 06:45 EDT: 900,000 people in New York will remain without power until November 11, while all of Manhattan’s lights will be back on by the end of Friday/Saturday, according to Consolidated Edison. A couple look out at the skyline of New York with most of Lower Manhattan remaining in the dark as they stand in a park along the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey, November 1, 2012. (Reuters/Gary Hershorn) A woman stands alone in water in front of destroyed homes on Cedar Grove Avenue in a neighborhood where many houses were heavily damaged or completely destroyed by storm surge flooding from Hurricane Sandy on the south side of the Staten Island section of New York City, November 1, 2012. (Reuters/Mike Segar) ­Nov. 1, 23:05 EDT: Economic damage from Superstorm Sandy could reach as high as US$50 billion, forecasting firm Eqecat estimates. This would make Sandy the second most expensive storm in US history after Hurricane Katrina. ­Nov. 1, 20:25 EDT: The UN's management chief has said the global body’s headquarters in NYC has suffered “unprecedented damage” from Superstorm Sandy that has battered the city, AP reports. Yukio Takasu told the General Assembly on Thursday that the most serious damage was from flooding, which affected many basement offices and the cooling system in the main Secretariat building. The flooding also caused a small fire in a circuit breaker in an electrical panel in the basement, he said. Burnt houses are seen next to those which survived in Breezy Point, a neighborhood located in the New York City borough of Queens, after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy (Reuters/Adrees Latif) Damaged rides and debris are strewn across Keansburg Amusement Park after Superstorm Sandy swept across the region, on November 1, 2012 in Keansburg, New Jersey (Andrew Burton / Getty Images / AFP) ­Nov. 1, 19:00 EDT: The 43rd New York Marathon will take place Sunday despite the Superstorm Sandy aftermath. "This city is a city where we have to go on," Bloomberg said Thursday. He promised that the event will not drain resources from victims, "The marathon is not going to redirect any focus." Nov. 1, 16:20 EDT: New York Mayor and ex-Republican Michael Bloomberg has endorsed Barack Obama for re-election, saying Superstorm Sandy and climate change shaped his view. Commuters travel trough the 59th Street subway station on November 1, 2012 in New York during the first day of limited subway after Hurricane Sandy (AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary) Nov. 1, 15:35 EDT: US Department of Energy says 200,000 customers have regained power, 4.5 million remain without. Nov. 1, 12:27 EDT: At least 82 people have been killed across the US and Canada. Nov. 1, 11:36 EDT: US death toll from Superstorm Sandy reaches 74. Nov. 1, 10:53 EDT: ConEd says power to be restored across Manhattan by Sunday. Nov. 1, 09:45 EDT: The first flight since Hurricane Sandy lands at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Nov. 1, 07:03 EDT: National Guard troops are evacuating patients of the New Your City’s Bellevue Hospital after flooding in the basement damaged its power generators and other equipment. A probe on Wednesday showed the damage was too extensive to keep it running. Nov. 1, 06:43 EDT: More than half of New York’s subway trains are back to working condition, according to local authorities. The trains are avoiding lower Manhattan, which is still dealing with a massive blackout. Nov. 1, 06:01 EDT: NY’s South Ferry Station remains flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as authorities work on clean-up operations. Photo from flickr.com user @ South Ferry Photo from flickr.com user @ South Ferry Nov. 1, 02:42 EDT: New York’s public schools to remain closed Thursday and Friday due to damage caused by Sandy. Nov. 1, 01:05 EDT: UN Security Council was forced to relocate its meetings on Somalia and other issues because of water damage to the UN headquarters caused by Sandy in New York. Earlier the UN press office issued a statement that the UN complex would re-open Thursday after a three-day closure. ­Oct. 31, 23:15 EDT: New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo says all mass transit fares will be suspended Thursday and Friday – making the subway, bus and commuter rail free. “I am declaring a transportation emergency and authorizing the MTA to waive fares…through the end of the week, Thursday and Friday” he said. Commuters wait in long lines for a bus on 6th Avenue in lower Manhattan after subway service was suspended due to flooding from Hurricane Sandy October 31, 2012. (Reuters / Mike Segar) Oct. 31, 20:05 EDT: A major oil spill has occurred in the strait of water separating Staten Island, NYC and the state of New Jersey. The spill, of more than 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel, reportedly occurred in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. By Wednesday evening all the spilled oil was believed to be contained by booms put in the water, the Coast Guard said, according to AP. READ MORE ­Oct. 31, 19:00 EDT: President Barack Obama toured Sandy-devastated areas of New Jersey and reasserted the government’s support for any victims, saying “we are here for you, and we will not forget.” He also put aside politics to praise NJ Governor Chris Christie, a Republican and vocal supporter Mitt Romney, for his relief efforts. “I want to let you know that your governor is working overtime,” Obama said. Christie returned the kind words, later tweeting the he accepts Obama’s help and “appreciate his good will”. US President Barack Obama comforts Hurricane Sandy victim Dana Vanzant as he visits a neighborhood in Brigantine, New Jersey, on October 31, 2012. (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad) Oct. 31, 17:00 EDT: United Nations headquarters in NYC will reopen Thursday following post-Superstorm Sandy assessment. Oct. 31, 15:22 EDT: Bloomberg: “The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the streets with guns.” Oct. 31, 15:18 EDT: Bloomberg: "Our two biggest challenge remain getting mass transit and power grids up and running." Oct. 31, 15:07 EDT: Mayor Bloomberg: There were no storm-related deaths from any of the evacuated [medical] facilities in New York City. Oct. 31, 15:02 EDT: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg says only cars with three or more passengers should be allowed over bridges into Manhattan from 6AM to Midnight. Oct. 31, 13:55 EDT: Bellevue, New York's flagship public hospital, is relocating 500 patients after losing power. Oct. 31, 12:36 EDT: 59 people died in the US as a result of Superstorm Sandy; NY death toll climbs to 29. Oct. 31, 12:27 EDT: NY Governor Cuomo says limited subway service will return tomorrow, but not below 34th street. Oct. 31, 12:20 EDT: The U.N. Security Council has been forced to relocate its Wednesday meeting because of water damage to parts of the United Nations complex caused by Superstorm Sandy. Oct. 31, 10:08 EDT: NYPD says Sandy has claimed the lives of 22 people in New York City. Oct. 31, 09:32 EDT: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg rings opening bell for Stock Exchange, trading opens after 2-day shutdown. Oct. 31, 08:50 EDT: All bus services in New York City are operating free of charge today, says the MTA, as recovery efforts continue. embed video Oct. 31, 08:37 EDT: Death toll from Superstorm Sandy has climbed to 55, according to the AP. Oct. 31, 07:10 EDT: Fire has broken out on the New Jersey barrier island of Mantoloking. Authorities believe a gas main exploded and the fire spread. Mantoloking was severely damaged during the storm. Residents look over the remains of burned homes in the Rockaways section of New York, October 30, 2012. (Reuters/Keith Bedford) Oct. 31, 05:16 EDT: Russian airlines Aeroflot and Transaero have postponed their Moscow flights to and from New York City for one more day, citing bad operational conditions at JFK Airport. Oct. 31, 05:07 EDT: Barack Obama has canceled Halloween actives this year due to Hurricane Sandy. The presidential couple usually invites military families to the White House for festivities. A 'sad faced' jack-o-lantern awaits trick or treaters on Halloween at a house with tree damage (rear) in Silver Spring, Maryland October 31, 2012. (Reuters / Gary Cameron) Residents stand in front of a building on a flooded street after Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images/AFP) A damaged house is seen after Hurricane Sandy passed through in the greatly affected community of Atlantique on Fire Island, New York October 30, 2012. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) ­Oct. 31, 4:57 EDT: The economic losses from Hurricane Sandy could measure up to $10 billion, Itar-TASS reported. Oct.31, 4:30 EDT: Hurricane Sandy is moving towards Chicago, with waves measuring up to 7 meters expected to hit the city. Oct. 30, 22:40 EDT: JFK and Newark Liberty airports will reopen for limited service on Wednesday. Oct. 30, 20:00 EDT: NYC Mayor Micheal Bloomberg says the city will be open for business on Wednesday with financial markets and businesses resuming work in all 5 boroughs. Oct. 30, 19:00 EDT: United Nations HQ in NYC will remain closed on Wednesday as the city struggles to overcome the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. The John B. Caddell, a 700-ton tanker that washed up on the shore of Staten Island in New York during a storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy is seen on October 30, 2012. (AFP Photo/Mehdi Taamallah) A truck sits on a flooded street after Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images/AFP) Oct. 30, 18:08 EDT: The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 40 in the US and Canada, with at least 18 killed in NYC, according to Mayor Bloomberg. Oct. 30, 18:03 EDT: At least 6,400 people remain in 76 evacuation centers, Mayor Bloomberg said, expressing thanks to the 2,900 people who are staffing the centers. Oct. 30, 18:00 EDT: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Sandy was a storm of historic intensity, but New Yorkers are resilient. The mayor expressed gratitude to first responders from the FDNY and NYPD. Taxis sit in a flooded lot after Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images/AFP) ­Oct. 30, 17:10 EDT: Limited bus services return to the streets of New York City, the mayor’s office has tweeted. Oct. 30, 16:40 EDT: Federal agencies in Washington will re-open on Wednesday after being shut due to Sandy on Monday and Tuesday, the US government says. Oct. 30, 15:35 EDT: An off-duty NYPD officer is among the 10 people killed by the storm in New York. The officer was reportedly getting his family to safety in their home on Staten Island when he got trapped in the basement and drowned. Oct. 30, 15:01 EDT: US President Barack Obama will travel to storm-stricken New Jersey on Wednesday to view damage, thank first responders. Oct. 30, 14:32 EDT: Schools in the US capital will re-open on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. Oct. 30, 14:06 EDT: US death toll jumps to 38. More than 8.2 million people across the eastern US are without power. ­Oct. 30, 13:21 EDT: Alert remains in place at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey. Oct. 30, 12:55 EDT: New York Stock Exchange will reopen Wednesday after being shut down for 2 days. Oct. 30, 12:24 EDT: The Associated Press reports that death toll from hurricane Sandy has climbed to 33; many of the victims killed by falling trees. Oct. 30, 11:37 EDT: New York mayor's office confirms all bridges over the East River have been opened. That includes Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Ed Koch Queensboro (59th Street) bridges. Oct. 30, 11:14 EDT: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says at least 10 people died in NYC as result of storm. Oct. 30, 11:07 EDT: 750,000 New Yorkers remain without power, Mayor Bloomberg tells reporters. All public transport remains closed until further notice. Oct. 30, 11:04 EDT: New York City Mayor Bloomberg says Metro Trasport Authority CEO told him Sandy is the worst natural disaster in the subway's 108-year history. Oct. 30, 10:55 EDT: All three airports serving the New York City area – JFK, LaGuardia and Newark – remain closed. Airports in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC are open. New York’s LaGuardia Airport (Image from blog.jetblue.com) Oct. 30, 10:39 EDT: New Jersey Governor Christie says 2.4 million households have been affected by Sandy – twice the number from Hurricane Irene in 2011; over 5,000 people have been placed in shelters. Oct. 30, 10:36 EDT: New Jersey Governor Christie: "The devastation is unprecedented – like nothing we've ever seen reported before." Oct. 30, 10:23 EDT: NJ Governor Christie said the state of NJ is working with the Salvation Army and Red Cross to bring in mobile kitchens. He also said the state is utilizing FEMA food and water resources. Boats rest on Broadway Avenue after they were washed ashore from a boatyard during Hurricane Sandy in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, October 30, 2012. (Reuters/Steve Nesius) ­Oct. 30, 10:21 EDT: In a press conference, NJ Governor Chris Christie said there is major damage on each and every one of New Jersey's rail lines. ­Oct. 30, 09:54 EDT: MTA chairman says New Yorkers should expect mass transit to return “in pieces and parts” in the days to come. ­Oct. 30, 09:51 EDT: Sewage is flowing into the main stem of the Little Patuxent River in Savage, Maryland at a rate of 2 million gallons per hour. Officials say a power outage at a water treatment plant is to blame. ­Oct. 30, 09:37 EDT: NYC metro, rail, and bus service to resume on limited schedule (Sunday service) at 2pm EDT. ­Oct. 30, 09:22 EDT: Officials say the fire in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens involves 80 to 100 homes. A fire department spokesman says nearly 200 firefighters are currently at the scene. Homes that are devastated by fire and the effects of Hurricane Sandy are seen at the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York October 30, 2012. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton) ­Oct. 30, 09:15 EDT: MTA chairman says all seven subway tunnels that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn & Queens are flooded. ­Oct. 30, 08:51 EDT: At least 5,751 flights have been canceled in North America for Tuesday, around 15,500 flights have been affected by the storm. ­Oct. 30, 08:23 EDT: Since midnight, 911 has received 8,362 calls. 4,807 calls are waiting to be answered. Oct. 30, 08:03 EDT: The Red Cross reported that nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in its shelters across 16 states. ­Oct. 30, 07:55 EDT: Power company Con Edison is reporting 684,000 customers without power in the New York City area. Oct. 30, 06:40 EDT: Damage costs estimates to exceed $20 billion in US alone. Cars floating in a flooded subterranian basement following Hurricaine Sandy on October 30, 2012 in the Financial District of New York, United States. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP) Debris litter a flooded street in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn after the city awakens to the affects of Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in New York, United States. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP) Oct. 30, 06:04 EDT: Post-Sandy forecast predicts five days of rain, according to National Weather Service. ­ ­ Oct. 30, 05:59 EDT: Total of 83 people killed by hurricane Sandy: 15 in US, 1 in Canada, and 67 in the Caribbean. Oct. 30, 05:44 EDT: President Obama declared hurricane Sandy “major disaster” in New York. Oct. 30, 05:20 EDT: Sandy death toll rises to 16 people in US. Oct. 30, 04:11 EDT: At least 50 homes were completely destroyed in Breezy Point fire, NY. Oct. 30, 03:59 EDT: Fire engulfs 15 houses in Breezy Point, Queens, NY, as 170 firefighters are on scene battling the blaze. Image from Facebook/OccupyWallSt1 Oct. 30, 03:53 EDT: At least 13 people have been killed across the US and Canada in storm-related incidents as Sandy continues to devastate the East Coast. Oct. 30, 03:52 EDT: 6.5 million of people remain without power across the US as the result of hurricane Sandy. Oct. 30, 03:40 EDT: New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority stated this is worst disaster in the history of the NYC subway system. Oct. 30, 02:29 EDT: It could take up to four days to get the water out of the flooded NY subway tunnels, according to Metro Transit Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz. ­Oct. 30, 02:26 EDT: Woman has died after being rescued in the Atlantic along with 14 other crewmembers having abandoned HMS Bounty ship in rough Sandy weather, US Coast guard reported. Oct. 30, 02:26 EDT: Seven New York subway tunnels have been flooded as a result of Sandy. Oct. 30, 02:22 EDT: 6.5 million people are now without power across the US because of Sandy. Oct. 30, 02:10 EDT: Sandy is estimated to cost insurers somewhere between $5-10 billion, Wall Street Journal reports. Oct. 30, 01:51 EDT: Post-tropical storm Sandy is now located just south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Oct. 30, 01:31 EDT: Reports of major fire in the Rockaway Park area of Queens, New York. Oct. 30, 00:35 EDT: Sandy death toll reaches 13 nationwide. Oct. 30, 00:19 EDT: 5.8 million people left without power nationwide from Sandy as of midnight. Oct. 30, 00:05 EDT: Dozens of ambulances are evacuating NYU hospital patients to Sloan Kettering and Mt. Sinai hospitals due to a generator failure. Paramedics evacuate patients from New York University Tisch Hospital due to a power outage as Hurricane Sandy makes its approach in New York October 29, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly) Oct. 30, ­00:01 EDT: Power has been lost at the New York University Hospital in Lower Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg says the city will now start evacuating people from the facility. ­ Oct. 29, 23:53 EDT : Up to 14 inches of snow reported in Tucker County, West Virginia – Weather Channel ­Oct. 29, 23:41 EDT: More than 1.5 million people in New York State are without power, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted. ­Oct. 29, 23:11 EDT: As the storm pounds the East Coast, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has declared an "Alert" at a power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey. “The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure,” the agency said in a statement. Oct. 29, 23:00 EDT: 911 is receiving 10,000 calls per half hour, NYC Mayor’s Office reports. ­Oct. 29, 22:55 EDT: The main building of Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital is on fire, local news blog Sheepshead Bites reports. Emergency services cannot reach the site, as the streets surrounding the hospital are flooded. =========== Insight: Flooded New York plans to tame the sea, but who pays? Sat, Nov 03 01:13 AM EDT By Greg Roumeliotis NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Jeroen Aerts, a Dutchman tasked with crafting a plan to defend New York City from flooding, first looked at its coastline seven years ago, he was taken aback by how vulnerable it was. Unlike some of the other large cities around the world, such as London and Amsterdam, that have comprehensive flood defense systems with levees and storm surge barriers, New York was completely at the mercy of the elements.
"I was looking at the water and wondering - where are the levees?" said Aerts, a professor of environmental risk management at the VU University in Amsterdam and an adviser to New York City. "Nobody was doing anything on flood risk."
As the devastation after super storm Sandy this week made all too clear, little progress has been made since Aerts first looked at the Atlantic Ocean from New York's shores. The storm caused widespread flooding, power outages, travel chaos and left more than 40 people dead in New York City. Early estimates predict it also caused up to $18 billion in economic losses in New York state alone. New York state and city officials have started talking about the need for a comprehensive flood defense system, but many obstacles remain. According to Aerts' top estimate, it could cost as much as $29 billion to build and implement. The question of who will pay for it remains unresolved. Most comprehensive proposals for storm surge defenses involve a system of two to four barriers, each spanning from a third of a mile to six miles and towering about 30 feet above sea level. This is to be supplemented by levees, dikes, bulkheads and beach strengthening. One of the most prominent plans calls for a 0.84-mile East River storm surge barrier from Whitestone in Queens to Throgs Neck Bridge in the Bronx, and a much longer 5.92-mile Outer Harbor barrier linking Sandy Hook in New Jersey to the Rockaway Peninsula in Long Island. (For a graphic, click ) Aerts estimates storm surge barriers could cost between $10 billion to $17 billion, while additional defenses such as levees and adding sand to eroding beaches could cost another $10 billion to $12 billion. Even if the city were to find that kind of money, an infrastructure project on such a scale can take more than eight years to build, which means New Yorkers would be exposed to the fury of any such storm in the meantime. As shown in the past week, the city's current strategy is to take precautions - such as evacuations from areas that flood easily - then take the hit and try to recover as best as it can. "The city's approach is something that they call 'resilience'. If they are hit by a storm and they have flooding there will be damage but after the storm they can clean up... kind of repairing the damage after it's happening, bouncing back," said Malcolm Bowman, an oceanography professor at Long Island's Stony Brook University. "Obviously it is not enough." New York City and state officials did not respond to a request for comment on the question of flood barriers. A city spokesperson also did not respond to a request to comment on the significance of Aerts's role. The city will occasionally tap advisers to carry out research. WHO PAYS To many New Yorkers, Sandy's destruction came as a shock. But to scientists, engineers, environmentalists and public officials, this was a tragedy waiting to happen. A 2007 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked greater New York second among the world's large port cities most exposed to coastal flooding based on the value of their property. "People have said for many years - specifically since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans - that New York City was prone to such a super storm," New York City Comptroller John Liu said on Thursday. Still it took Hurricane Irene in August last year for the city to seriously start exploring a flood plan, according to Aerts, who said the city asked him to develop a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for a flood strategy. After Sandy, the momentum behind such a plan is set to build. Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York state, said this week that infrastructure will need to be re-examined and reinforced. But it is not clear how New York will pay for it, and it may well take an act of Congress to prevent the next act of God from bringing the world's financial center to its knees again. "We have to weigh our damages against the cost of building such a levee system," said Liu. On paper, New York City has the capacity to borrow more to spend on infrastructure. The latest relevant report from Comptroller Liu's office projects the city to be $18.28 billion below its general debt limit by July 2013 and $18.74 billion by July 2014. "I don't see tight debt capacity as a hurdle down the road," said George Friedlander, chief municipal strategist at Citigroup Inc. But the city's government is likely to be loath to jeopardize its strong credit in the municipal bond markets. It will have to clinch a deal with the state, the federal government, as well as other states vested in this, particularly New Jersey, at a time when relations between Democrats and Republicans are highly polarized. "When we saved New York City from bankruptcy thirty years ago, Governor (Hugh) Carey got people together and made them understand they were better off talking to each other," said Wall Street veteran Felix Rohatyn, currently a special adviser to Kenneth M. Jacobs, CEO at the Lazard investment bank. "I'm worried this is something we cannot do today." FEDERAL MONEY Federal money may prove key to any major flood protection program. This would mean negotiating funds with Congress rather than relying on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimburses states and cities for recovery projects. And getting that kind of money is going to be increasingly difficult given the lack of consensus in Washington on how to handle the U.S. government's large budget deficit and soaring debt. "We have to get a long-term commitment from the federal government to put money up, which can be contingent on the state and local governments producing a significant match," said former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Rendell, a major advocate of private sector involvement in infrastructure finance, argued that public-private partnerships could be part of the funding mix for such projects. Even though something like levees would be not be revenue-generating, private ownership or management was still an option, said Raj Agrawal, head of infrastructure for North America at investment firm KKR & Co LP. "If you get this under private ownership or private operation, you can certainly raise more capital than you could in the bond market by getting a capital infusion of funds from a private party," he said. POLITICAL DECISIONS In Europe, the Delta Works in the Netherlands, as well as the Thames Barrier in Britain, were both kicked off after the North Sea Flood of 1953 and are early examples of how major storms can result in significant infrastructure investments. The United States has not always been quick off the mark in erecting such defenses. Storm surge barriers off Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts were constructed in the 1960s as a result of a hurricane in 1938, said Graeme Forsyth, a technical director at engineering consultancy Halcrow. "The design may take two years, the construction might take six, and the rest of it is more to do with getting the ball rolling politically, getting the funding in place and all that kind of thing," said Forsyth, whose firm is behind a storm surge barrier for St. Petersburg, Russia, that cost $6.9 billion. Still, construction of the storm surge barrier in New Orleans was completed in 2011 - just six years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. "My experience in other countries with this kind of project is that these are political decisions. If the population is in favor of it, then a politician will say we'll go for it. ... Now we have momentum," said Aerts. Some skeptics argue that barriers and other large-scale infrastructure projects are not cost-effective because they protect only specific areas. "There is too much coastline. In a funny kind of way you can protect one area at the expense of another. I don't think huge capital infrastructure like that is going to be constructive," said Steven Cohen, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Aerts, though, says he is producing an estimate for the cost of barriers to give to the city's government. "In the short-term you can look at existing building codes to make sure that they are maintained. In the longer term, the barriers come into play," Aerts said. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by Paritosh Bansal, Martin Howell, Doina Chiacu) ================= Northeast digs out from snow, gas rationing expands Thu, Nov 08 22:48 PM EST 1 of 20 By Daniel Trotta and Robin Respaut NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City and much of the U.S. Northeast dug out from a snowstorm that hammered a region struggling to recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, as local governments expanded gasoline rationing in the face of shortages that may last weeks. The unseasonably early winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of Connecticut on Wednesday and battered the region with 50 mph winds, plunging 300,000 homes and businesses back into darkness. Rides aboard crowded trains were made more uncomfortable by the bulky coats, hats and scarves freezing commuters had to wear. Bitter cold, rain, snow and powerful winds added to the misery of disaster victims whose homes were destroyed or power was knocked out by Sandy. The storm came ashore on October 29 and caused widespread flooding, leading up to as much as $50 billion in economic losses and prompting the medical relief group Doctors Without Borders to set up its first-ever U.S. clinic. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was providing mobile homes to house those displaced by the storm, a reminder of the scramble after Hurricane Katrina seven years ago to tend to the newly homeless. Some evacuees will be put up nearly 200 miles from home, FEMA said, because there is little available space closer to the city. The snowstorm also created another commuting nightmare for a region whose transportation system was already under repair. Train service was again spotty and crowded Thursday night; the Long Island Rail Road appealed to people to travel later in the evening. People coming out of the Newport PATH station in New Jersey had to negotiate busy rush-hour traffic without traffic lights, so one man took it on himself to direct cars. Commuters were lucky to even get there, though. Confusion reigned at Penn Station, where heavily armed police guarded track entrances, and the Port Authority bus terminal in midtown Manhattan, where officers yelled into crowds of people whose normal 30-to-45-minute commutes stretched well past two hours each way this week. Kim Chan said she would give her train line to Maplewood another 10 minutes before heading to her mother's house in the city for the night. "I'm not going to see my daughter until maybe when the trains are fixed," said Chan, who works for a dance company. "I'm not sure living in New Jersey is worth the effort." GAS, PATIENCE RUNNING OUT With drivers still struggling to find adequate fuel, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city would begin an indefinite program of gas rationing, modeled on one New Jersey implemented last week - allowing drivers to fill up on alternating days depending on their license plate number - that has reduced lines dramatically of late. Bloomberg indicated that the city had little choice. One gas station in Brooklyn had an hour-long line Thursday just for government workers, while another along the busy Belt Parkway in Queens had a two-hour line for just one working pump. After he announced the rationing plan, a gas line snaked for blocks through Manhattan's Soho neighborhood. "It now appears there will be shortages for possibly another couple weeks," Bloomberg said, later adding, "If you think about it, it's not any great imposition once you get used to it." Neighboring counties would implement a similar program, he said, in an effort to cut down lines that ran for hours at local filling stations following Sandy. The city's iconic yellow taxis are exempt from the new regulation. New Yorkers, never known for holding their tongues, let their exasperation with the bad weather show. "God hates us!" the New York Post said in a front-page headline. 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH' A week after Sandy, Doctors Without Borders established temporary emergency clinics in the hard-hit Rockaways - a barrier island in Queens facing the Atlantic Ocean - to tend to residents of high-rises, which still lacked power and heat and were left isolated by the storm. "I don't think any of us expected to see this level of lacking access to health care," said Lucy Doyle, who specializes in internal medicine at New York's Bellevue Hospital and has done stints with the group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. "A lot of us have said, it feels a lot like being in the field in a foreign country." The medical situation was better elsewhere, though other resources were still lacking. Residents at Waterside Plaza, an apartment complex over the East River in Manhattan, had their power restored on Wednesday - temporarily, anyway. "Then the power went and failed one more time, then came back again, then failed in the evening, then came back again, then failed again this morning and hasn't come back," said Josh Bright, a 39-year-old photojournalist, as he climbed the stairs to his apartment on the 26th floor to feed his cats. Sandy's death toll in the United States and Canada reached 121 after New York authorities on Wednesday reported another death linked to the storm in the Rockaways. "Can you believe this? Enough is enough," said Cindy Casey, whose Belle Harbor home one block from the beach in the Rockaways was swamped by Sandy, as she looked out at the snow blanketing the neighborhood devastated by flooding and fire. Sandy surrounded Casey's home with six feet (two metres) of water and sparked a fire that destroyed at least 20 houses in the neighborhood before stopping short of her own. The storms have also battered New Jersey's shore, a summer tourist haven where hundreds of beach-front homes were destroyed by Sandy's record storm surge. "The kids have been home for nearly two weeks and I'm not working, and when I'm not working I'm not making any money. This hasn't been easy," said Michael Platt, 49, an electrician from Toms River, New Jersey, who got an estimated foot of snow. 'FAILED CONSUMERS' New York City on Friday will open a vehicle tunnel linking midtown Manhattan to Queens, which would restore all of Manhattan's tunnels and bridges except for the tunnel linking lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. Amtrak plans to reopen three tunnels to the city's Penn Station by late Friday. In the meantime, New Jersey officials said the state would make more free shuttle buses and ferries available to help commuters get into Manhattan. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said estimates put the damage and economic loss for the region at $50 billion (including $33 billion in New York state), turned his ire on the power utilities, which he said had failed customers. Some 715,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power, a net increase of nearly 43,000 from Wednesday night after the nor'easter knocked electricity out to more customers following those who had lost it from Sandy. The storm damage exposed flaws in the regulation of power utilities that will require a complete redesign, said Cuomo, who oversees the state-controlled utilities and appoints the members of the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities such as Consolidated Edison. "It is nameless, faceless bureaucracy that is a monopoly that operates with very little incentive or sanction. ... They have failed the consumers," Cuomo said. (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Philip Barbara, Michelle Conlin, Chelsea Emery, Jilian Mincer and Edward Krudy; Writing by Dan Trotta and Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Jackie Frank and Stacey Joyce) ===========