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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Storm leaves billions in damage across eastern US
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Oct 30, 2012


Insured US storm losses $7-15 bn: experts
Washington (AFP) Oct 30, 2012 - Insured losses from the massive superstorm Sandy that battered the US East Coast could run between $7 billion and $15 billion, catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide said Tuesday.

AIR said the damages were akin to much more intense hurricanes, because of the gigantic size of Sandy and its collision with another huge front sweeping in from the west, wreaking havoc over a much broader area than other megastorms.

AIR's estimates included wind and storm surge damage to onshore residential, commercial and industrial properties and their contents, automobiles and insured losses related to things like business interruption for companies forced to shut down.

Sandy, rated only a category one hurricane, was nearly twice the size of the devastating Category 3 Hurricane Katrina of 2005, AIR said.

AIR said tropical force winds from Sandy affected an area spanning 950 miles (1,530 kilometers), and hurricane force winds extending 175 miles from its center, much more than other extremely damaging hurricanes.

"Sandy's diameter made it the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of the span of tropical storm-force winds," the company said.

"The storm affected areas as far north as Toronto and west to the Great Lakes."

The show must go on: New York's Broadway to reopen
New York (AFP) Oct 30, 2012 - Most of the shows in New York's iconic Broadway theater district are to reopen on Wednesday, after being suspended as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the city, the Broadway League said.

Some of the city's most popular shows, including Jersey Boys and The Book of Mormon, were to open for either Wednesday matinee or evening performances, the official Broadway League industry group said in a statement.

The shows were forced to shut their curtains on Sunday night, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the east coast of the United States and New York City announced it was suspending city transportation services.

But with the worst of the storm over, the League's executive director Charlotte St. Martin said "most shows" would go ahead on Wednesday and encouraged travellers stranded in the city to catch a performance.

"It's a great time to see a show," she said in a statement.

Sandy left at least 43 people dead in the United States and Canada and caused widespread damage, including mass power outages, in New York.

US businesses, homeowners and local governments faced up to $20 billion in damage Tuesday as Hurricane Sandy left coastal homes crumbled, urban neighborhoods swamped and eight million without power.

Much of the economically crucial northeast Atlantic coast corridor remained shut down late Tuesday, including the global financial hub of New York City.

New York banks and two of the world's largest equity markets, the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market, were shuttered for a second day after the storm lashed New York.

Crucial transportation services, from buses to airlines, were struggling to resume service after shutdowns that had heavy economic and social impact far beyond the path of the megastorm.

Disaster estimator EQECAT said the storm could cause a total of $10 to $20 billion in damage, with insured losses accounting for about half of the amount.

But economists said that even considering the money spent for rebuilding, the losses to the total economy could hit $30-50 billion, shaving off a good chunk of economic growth in the fourth quarter.

"The commercial shutdown of the East Coast is likely to result in gross domestic product losses that may outweigh infrastructure damages," said Gregory Daco and Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight.

The gigantic hurricane that came ashore in New Jersey late Monday turned four of the country's leading cities and economic power centers, including global banking capital New York, into ghost towns.

The normally bustling financial quarter of Manhattan, partially submerged by floodwaters from a powerful storm surge, was deserted Tuesday morning, and the headquarters of huge banks Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and New York Mellon closed, as were thousands of other businesses tied into the financial industry's web.

The stockmarkets and related derivatives and futures trading boards were all dark for a second day, their first shutdown since the 9/11 attacks closed financial markets for four days in 2011.

It was the NYSE's first weather-related closure since 1985, when Hurricane Gloria halted trade for one day.

Both the NYSE and Nasdaq announced they would resume business on Wednesday.

"We are pleased to be able to return to normal trading tomorrow," said NYSE Euronext chief executive Duncan Niederauer.

"Our building and systems were not damaged and our people have been working diligently to ensure that we have a smooth opening tomorrow."

Foreign markets were hit with sharply lower volumes due to the closures in New York.

"The real engine is still Wall Street," said stock trader Yves Marcais at Global Equities.

"When New York is closed, there is roughly 40 percent less volume in Paris."

In Europe, oil prices rose slightly as traders assessed the impact the disaster would have on demand for crude oil in the United States, where several key refineries and terminals along the Atlantic coast were shut down for the storm.

The dollar remained fairly firm, slipping about 0.4 percent against the euro during the day to about $1.2961.

"The market is rolling with the punches as little on the economic or policy side will change," said forex specialist Sebastien Galy at Societe Generale.

Experts said the losses from business closures could double the physical damages sustained in the storm.

"While many lines of insurance will be affected, including property and auto, there is the potential for significant business interruption and contingent business interruption losses related to the flooding," Fitch Ratings said.

"The massive storm is impacting a wide variety of businesses in densely populated areas, including retail, corporate offices, transportation, manufacturing and energy plants."

The IHS economists expected physical losses to top the $15 billion from Hurricane Irene last year.

"With Sandy being a much larger storm, it is likely to end up causing more flooding damage than its 2011 peer, which would increase total damage estimates," they said.

While some losses to economic production will be recovered in rebuilding spending, not all can be regained.

But even the larger estimates were still small compared to the $120 billion in economic damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the US Gulf of Mexico coastline in 2005.

But Daco and Gault at IHS warned that damage caused by Sandy was still enough to reduce the economic growth rate in the fourth quarter by 0.6 percentage points.

France offers aid, solidarity to storm-hit US
Paris (AFP) Oct 31, 2012 - France has offered aid to help the US East Coast recover from the ravages of superstorm Sandy, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday, expressing "total solidarity with the American people."

"France is ready to provide the United States with all the aid it deems necessary," Fabius said in a statement.

The death toll across several states on the US eastern seaboard has risen to 42, with another death in Canada, and is expected to climb further as several people remained missing, officials said Tuesday.

Sandy had already killed at least 67 people -- including a US national in Puerto Rico -- as it swept through the Caribbean, meaning the overall toll from the storm is now 110.

Some eight million Americans remained without electricity on Tuesday.

Disaster estimating firm Eqecat forecast that the massive storm would affect more than 60 million Americans, a fifth of the country's population, and cause up to $20 billion (15 billion euros) in damage.

"In the face of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, I express my total solidarity with the American people who, after the Caribbean nations, are living through very difficult hours," said Fabius.

He appealed to French nationals in the disaster area to act with extreme caution and follow the advice of the US authorities.

Some 65,000 French people live in the northeastern United States, including 35,000 in New York, which bore the full brunt of the storm.

At least 18 people were killed in the city, mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

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