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Fijians battened down as US hit

Margaret Wise
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FIJIANS living in the path of Superstorm Sandy kept in touch and remained calm as the hurricane slammed into East Coast America, plunging New York into darkness and knocking out power to at least 5.3 million people.

Apisai Tuiqere, a Qalikarua, Matuku, native living in Vermont, told The Fiji Times at 6pm (1am US time) that while they were 193 miles away from New York, he felt like he was at a train station.

"The sound of the wind is like there's a train travelling past. We are getting the first wave of winds right now and if it continues on its path then it's New York, Boston, and then us at 6am our time before it moves into Maine," he said last night.

Weather watchers had dubbed the storm "Frankenstorm" because Sandy, a wintry system from the west was expected to combine with cold air streaming from the Arctic as it zeroed in on America's largest city. The monstrous hybrid brought not only rain, high wind and sea surges but snow as well.

Mr Tuiqere said earlier in the day he spoke with Epeli Rokotuiveikau, a Fijian who worked in New York's Financial District.

"Epeli, who is from Natogadravu, Tailevu, works on Wall Street. He said he was okay and he told me that the power was out and everything was shut down, the mass transit system, schools, the stock exchange and Broadway and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were told to leave home to get out of the way of the storm," Mr Tuiqere said.

"My family has stocked up on water and batteries and people have battened down their homes. I am using the land line because I want to save the battery on my cell phone, the power here has gone out three times already. I just want to make sure I have a means of communication should we get hit badly."

The width of the storm was 1600 kilometres and it packed a wind speed of 280km/hr at landfall. The largest-sized hurricane to hit the United States was expected to affect 60 million people across the East Coast, affecting major cities from New York, Portland, Philadelphia, Burlington, Buffalo, and Washington DC.

At 8pm (Fiji time) more than 12 people were confirmed dead as a result of the storm. Sandy's powerful winds and rains have already been blamed for 41 deaths in several Caribbean countries, including 11 in Cuba.

Just before its center reached land, the storm was stripped of hurricane status, but it still packed hurricane-force wind. Heavy rain and further flooding remain major threats over the next couple of days.

Storm damage was projected at $10 billion to $20 billion, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

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