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New York battles to open five key transport tunnels

Engineers and construction workers across New York continue to work around the clock to restore services after critical infrastructure was knocked out by Hurricane Sandy last week.

Parts of New York City and New Jersey were still without power and, a week after the hurricane struck, five major road and rail tunnels connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City still remain flooded as NCE went to press.

Initial estimates put the cost of the damage, which caused the biggest disruption to the city since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, at some $50bn (£31bn) - four times greater than previously predicted.

In Manhattan most of the damage was caused by the 3.5m tidal surge which inundated Lower Manhattan last Monday night, flooding buildings close to the shore including the World Trade Center site.

One week after the storm, Lower Manhattan continues to suffer from power outages as utility company workers battle against floodwaters and damaged infrastructure to restore services.

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Transport across the region was hit hard. Subway operator Mass Transit Authority confirmed that the storm caused the worse damage ever suffered by the city’s transport network with seven of MTA’s subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens and Brooklyn flooded.

“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” said MTA chairman Joe Lhota.

A total of 13km of track was flooded according to an MTA spokesman. MTA is using three pump trucks to remove the water from its tunnels.

An MTA engineer helping with the clear up told NCE he had never before seen flooding on the scale witnessed last week across the system.

“You sometimes see two foot (0.6m) of water in a tunnel,” said the engineer who declined to be named. “But there’s up to eight feet (2.4m) in the tunnels - it is crazy.”

As NCE went to press water had been successfully pumped from all but the Clark Street and Cranberry Street tunnels allowing a closer assessment of the damage to be made.

Despite the devastation, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has ruled out the construction of a flood barrier to protect the city from future storms

“Once the water was pumped, MTA engineers went into the tunnels to inspect signals, track, trackbed, emergency stop components and lights,” said the spokesman.

However, so far no track or signalling has had to be replaced, according to the spokesman.

As of Monday a number of key tunnels had been reopened for use by trains and passengers including the Joralemon, Rutger Street, 14th Street and Steinway.

Meanwhile, the US Army Corps of Engineers is still pumping out the MTA’s two road tunnels - Midtown and Brooklyn Battery.

The Hudson Tube tunnels connecting Manhattan to Jersey City with Port Authority Trans- Hudson (Path) trains also remain flooded with engineers on the
scene.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reopened the two road tunnels underneath the Hudson River - the Lincoln and Holland tunnel after they were flooded.

Despite the devastation, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has ruled out the construction of a flood barrier to protect the city from future storms.

He said he was unconvinced that flood prevention would give value for money and instead urged building owners to boost flood resilience measures such as the removal of backup generators from basements.

Cost of Hurricane Sandy to hit $50bn

US risk modelling firm EQECAT has put the total cost to New York of Hurricane Sandy at up to $50bn (£31bn), driven by the widespread damage to infrastructure.

The estimate is massive increase on the maximum £12.4bn losses it was predicting before the storm struck. It now calculates that insured losses will be between £6.2bn and £12.4bn, with total economic damage in the range of £18.6bn and £31bn.

EQECAT said a number of factors had influenced estimates, not least the large energy and utility losses that will be incurred. These are likely to trigger significantly more insured loss due to business interruption than was expected from a more typical Category 1 storm.

In addition the subway and roadway tunnel outages are expected to lead to greater overall costs than had been anticipated.

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