Sandy: America's agony and the 'why' word
Driving some eight hours from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Washington DC late yesterday, east-side America was a ghost land of lashing rains, tossing trees, and deserted freeways reflecting our headlights in pools of standing water.
Occasionally, vast fifty-foot long trucks would hurtle past us, obliterating all view with clouds of spray and spume. Arriving in the US capital, the streets were abandoned. Not a soul moved as pavement saplings blew at crazy angles and shopping trolleys, torn tyres, and other debris flew about the roads and pavements. Whole neighbourhoods were in darkness. Crossing the wild Potomac required all one’s strength to keep our vehicle from being blown across the carriageway.
But the “power outages”, the shutdown of all public transport systems, all cab movements, all shops and bars, and the government itself, were as nothing compared to Manhattan and the New Jersey foreshore.
My colleague Matt Frei was out in New York late into the night and has seen unimaginable scenes of chaos. His reports will be on Channel 4 News tonight and in his blog – or you can follow him on Twitter @mattfrei.
Here, amid continuing 55mph winds, we are already asking questions. This is the wrong season for hurricanes to hit so far north. What has brought this upon what is – at times, and in some places – the most sophisticated nation on earth?
Has what is still the most energy-consuming country in the world brought this on itself to any extent? Is America – responsible for 25 per cent of all global carbon emissions, where the mother and father of the biggest vehicles are standard public usage – suffering from the effects of climate change to which she, and we, have contributed?
As of now some sixteen people have died. Some 6.5 million Americans are without power. And remember, no power, no water. The US sanitation and water systems have no tanks in the roof. Water is pumped. So there are millions of Americans with dry taps and no lavatory flush.
For the latest updates on Sandy, live from the newsroom and the US, click here
And how vulnerable this nation’s “sophistication” proves. Bloomberg News, based in New York, talks of $6 billion in insurance claims. Nearly 14,000 flights have been cancelled, disrupting air travel across America with knock-ons across the world.
Pfizer, Thomson Reuters, Time Warner, McGraw-Hill are just a few of the global corporations having to postpone key announcements. Wall Street is shut for the second day.
Somehow who runs America becomes a secondary question. Now, surely, the question will be asked: in what condition is the America that is to be run?
The presidential campaign for the vote a week today is suspended. Mr Obama will appear at the White House and perhaps elsewhere to “lead” the recovery. Mr Romney is left to visit an emergency shelter in Ohio – a state less affected than most that it borders.
Climate change, global warming, are issues that have not surfaced in this presidential season. America is not alone in that. But as this vast country wrestles with a catastrophe that has affected some 20 per cent of the USA, and some 60 million of its people, the “why” word must surely assert itself.
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