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October 30, 2012

Low-Lying Areas of New York City Suffer Flooding

by Peter Fedynsky

Hurricane Sandy brought heavy rain and high winds, leaving many areas of America’s Eastern Seaboard underwater. Unprecedented flooding in New York has destroyed property and closed vital sectors of the economy. So far, overall, Sandy has claimed at least 33 lives.

Sounds of sump pumps fill the air in low-lying areas of New York City.  Don, a water systems professional in Brooklyn, has been on the job, pumping out basements since before dawn.  He says the worst flooding he has ever seen was about 20 years ago, but it was not weather-related.

“I do not know if it was a hurricane.  Oh, no.  You know what it was?  It was a water main break by the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, 24-inch (61 centimeters) water main break,” he said.

Leslie Bernat lives near Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, which overflowed its banks and left a meter of water in the basement of her home.  She immigrated to the United States from France years ago.  As she surveyed the damage to her art and possessions, she said she also  had never seen such severe flooding.

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T“We saw that in an hour, everything in the basement was flooded.  We were shocked, because the water of the canal came right away, and we never had a chance to clean up anything.  We were not expecting so much water in the basement,” Bernat said.

There is also an oil slick in Bernat’s basement.  She and other Gowanus residents say it came from these oil trucks parked a block away that were partially submerged during the height of the flooding.  The runoff clearly shows oil flowing back toward the canal.

The threat of flooding prompted officials to close the city’s subway system and bus service.  They also cut power to Lower Manhattan, including the Financial District, to avoid saltwater damage.  Stock exchanges, schools,  theaters and businesses also closed.  Water flowed into commuter tunnels.  

New York City Mayor MIchael Bloomberg says it will be some time until New York returns to business as usual.

The storm has claimed at least ten lives in New York

"In addition to the lives we lost, the damage we suffered across the city is clearly extensive and it will not be repaired overnight. The two biggest challenges faing our city going forward are getting our mass transit system up and running and restoring power," Bloomberg said.

Sandy has been downgraded from a hurricane.  It hit the New York area with winds of up to 128 kilometers per hour.

VOA's Daniela Schrier took her camera to the East Village district in Lower Manhattan Monday night to document the flood damage.