THE atmosphere lingering over New York City following Hurricane Sandy has been compared to that of 9/11 by a Rugbeian who witnessed the storm.
Chris Sell, 45, who lives in Brooklyn with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, told the Advertiser the day after Hurricane Sandy the sound of the wind was like a thundering train, and that the shock reverberating around the city reminded him of the chilling aftermath of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
“To see destruction of this scale first hand reminded me of a Hollywood film – it’s surreal,” he said.
“The whole city is in shock and there’s a horrible atmosphere in the air. So much destruction, in a place that has so much infrastructure and so many people, just doesn’t feel real. There is a sense of hope, of people sticking together despite the hardship, but many don’t know what to say to each other. Because of the damage, the city is divided, everything is shut, and no one is sure how long this chaos is going to go on for.”
On Monday night New York City was thrashed by a ‘superstorm’ and engulfed by a 13-foot storm surge. Sandy was the largest Atlantic storm on record and pelted the city with wind and rain while plunging swaths of the city under seawater.
Chris, who owns a pub and fish and chip shop in Brooklyn, moved to New York in 1990 after growing up in Bilton and going to St Mark’s middle, Harris High and Stratford catering college. His chip shop is decorated with some framed postcards of Rugby and Advertiser front pages. He has managed to keep both his businesses open due to them being on higher ground. His home has also been unaffected as geographically, it was in one of the safest parts of the city on Monday night.
He added: “When the storm itself was happening I ventured outside briefly as curiosity got the better of me. The wind rushing through the city was so powerful it sounded like a thundering train coming towards you. When I was in London during the Great Storm of 1987 I was in a tall office block and some of the windows blew through because the wind was so powerful, but that was nowhere near as violent as what I witnessed here.
“Everything is closed, many of the high rises have no power or water and they’re saying that parts of Manhattan won’t have power for another week. It’s chaos, subway stations have been submerged, as have bridges between the islands.”
He said the build up to the storm was eerie, as usually bustling city streets fell silent.
“Everybody took to social media, and nobody quite knew what to expect. Despite the danger, my daughter was excited even though I kept telling her it was the storm of the century,” said Chris.
“There is a service in New York that’s controlled by the city authorities that can send message alerts to every smart phone in the city. It only gets used once every few years but I got two messages on Monday night, the last one told me, ‘take shelter now’.
“Being in Brooklyn I’ve been incredibly lucky. In Queens 80 houses burned down – simply because the fire authorities couldn’t get there, and I’ve seen pictures on the news of 50 or so ambulances rushing patients across the city because a hospital’s entire electricity supply, and back-ups, got wiped out.
“They say the damage could be as much as $12billion. I can’t get my head around that figure, how many businesses in the city will be forced to shut? How many people’s lives will this ruin?
“The authorities have been fantastic, but unfortunately Sandy was everything they warned us it would be and more.”