Storm Sandy: 16 killed as megastorm batters the US

President Obama declared that megastorm Sandy had sparked a major disaster in the states of New York and New Jersey. Stock trading also remain closed in the US for the second day

New York: Superstorm Sandy battered the US East Coast on Tuesday with fierce winds and heavy rains, killing at least 16 people, plunging millions into darkness and leaving the New York Stock Exchange shut for two straight days for the first time since 1888, prompting President Barack Obama to declare it a "major disaster", reports PTI.


Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the US, slammed the coastline of New Jersey where a large number of Indian families reside, with 80 mph winds, pushing seawater up by an unprecedented 13-feet in New York City, bringing the Presidential campaign to a halt a week before the 6th November polls.


Obama, who took a day off from the campaigning yesterday to oversee from the White House the response to the megastorm, declared that megastorm Sandy had sparked a "major disaster" in the states of New York and New Jersey. He ordered release of federal aid for those who lost homes or businesses.


Republican challenger Mitt Romney also cancelled some campaign appearances.


Stock trading was closed in the US for a second day today the first time the New York Stock Exchange remained closed for two consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard struck the city.


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


According to CBS News, 16 deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees. At least one death was blamed on the storm in Canada.


Still, the power was out for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and an estimated 6.2 million people altogether across the East.


Emergency has been declared in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The storm affected more than 50 million people along the entire East Coast from North Carolina to New Hampshire.


The water flooded seven underground subway lines, putting them out of action temporarily.


"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 Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).


"Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region. It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots," he said.


Police said floodwaters have broken a levee in northern New Jersey, threatening three nearby towns and prompting rescue teams to take to boats.


Ralph Verdi, the police chief of Little Ferry, New Jersey, told CNN the waters had risen by four to six feet in some areas,


Rescuers pulled residents from second-storey windows to safety.


"It's been an extremely difficult night. The power's still out. We're doing the best we can," he told CNN. "Our town is in real trouble right now."


Floods inundated a number of areas in New York and New Jersey and an explosion at a sub-station on the east side of Manhattan's Midtown plunged 500,000 people into darkness.


The facade of a four-story building in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood crumbled and collapsed, leaving the lights, couches, cabinets and desks inside visible from the street. No one was hurt.


Eyewitnesses said a huge ball of blue light exploded over Manhattan last night, believed to be a powerful blast at Consolidated Edison station.


The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) declared an alert at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey, which is currently in a regularly scheduled outage, as the water level reached the minimum high level criteria.


"Water level is rising in the intake structure due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge.


It is anticipated water levels will begin to abate within the next several hours," the NRC said.


According to NRC, no plants had to shut down as a result of the storm although several plants were already out of service for regularly scheduled refuelling and maintenance outages. All plants remain in a safe condition, with emergency equipment available if needed and NRC inspectors on-site.


The storm also flooded ground-zero, the site of the 9/11 terror attacks here.


Authorities evacuated more than 200 patients and staff of a New York city hospital after after its backup generator failed when the power was knocked out by the superstorm.


Sandy is no longer a hurricane because it is drawing energy from temperature differences and not the ocean, making the transition to a superstorm that may push a wall of water ashore in the Northeast and lash the East with wind and rain.


John F Kennedy airport in New York City and other airports in the region have been shut down with more than 13,000 flights being cancelled in the storm affected areas.


New York and New Jersey registered a record level of rainfall and shut down major transportation arteries.


Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Atlantic.


Coastal Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh brace for a cyclonic storm

Authorities are on high alert after a deep depression lying 500 km south east of Chennai intensified into a cyclonic storm and is expected to cross the coast between Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday

Chennai/Hyderabad: Coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh braced for a cyclonic storm that is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, as incessant rains hit normal life today in Chennai, reports PTI.
Authorities were put on high alert after a deep depression lying 500 km south east of Chennai intensified into a cyclonic storm and is expected to cross the coast between Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh tomorrow, bringing in torrential rains in the region.
The system, named 'Nilam', as suggested by Pakistan under the cyclone naming procedure, would move north-westwards and cross the coast between Nagapattinam and Nellore by tomorrow afternoon/evening.
Under the influence of the storm, rainfall at most places, with isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall, would occur over coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry during next 12 hours, a bulletin issued by Area Cyclone Warning Centre here at 1pm said.
It forecast heavy to very heavy rainfall and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (25 cm or more) in the region during the subsequent 36 hours.
"Squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would prevail along and off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts during next 12 hours. The wind speed would gradually increase thereafter as the system comes closer to coast," it said.
Sea will be "very rough to high" and fishermen in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts have been advised to stay off the sea.
Windspeeds can reach upto 90 km in Chennai and there could be some disruption in communication lines, the bulletin said.
Danger signals ranging from five to seven have been hoisted at Chennai, Ennore, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Puducherry ports.
Normal life in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore and Villupuram was hit by incessant rains since morning. A holiday was declared today for schools and colleges.
In AP, a third warning signal has been issued in Krishnapatnam, Vadarevu, Machilipatnam and Nizampatnam ports while fishermen have been warned not to venture into sea.
Control rooms have been opened in the coastal districts, particularly SPS Nellore and Prakasam that are expected to face a major impact of the cyclone.


Maruti Suzuki Q2 net profit slips 5%; gives all-time high discounts


There is not much demand for Maruti Suzuki's petrol cars and it cannot produce enough diesel cars that are selling like hot cars, which has affected its bottomline
New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSI), the country's largest car maker on Tuesday reported 5.41% decline in its net profit to Rs227.45 crore for the quarter ended 30th September due to lower sales, mainly of petrol models, reports PTI.
The average discounts on the models, especially petrol run, were all-time high during the July-September quarter.
The company had posted a net profit of Rs240.45 crore in the corresponding period last year, Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) said in a statement.
The net sales during the second quarter of this fiscal, however, went up by 8.5% to Rs8,070.11 crore, from Rs7,435.85 crore in the year-ago period, it added.
In the July-September period, vehicle sales of MSI fell by 8.69% to 2.3 lakh units, from 2.5 lakh units in the same period last year.
Out of this, the company sold 2.1 lakh units in the domestic market compared to 2.2 lakh units in the same period previous year. It also exported 20,422 units as against 29,901 units in last year, the statement said.
Commenting on the numbers, MSI said: "The market showed a marked preference for diesel cars, while demand for petrol vehicles dropped sharply... The bottomline has also been impacted by lower non operating income during the quarter."
Despite ramping up the production of diesel cars, the company has a waiting list of nearly 1.25 lakh diesel cars.
"To counter subdued demand for petrol cars, the company enhanced sales promotion measures that also impacted profitability... The company continues to focus on component localisation and reduction in cost and overheads," MSI said.
While talking to analysts in a conference call, MSI Chief Financial Officer Ajay Seth said the company doled out more discounts in the second quarter that was "at an all-time high" to attract customers.
"On an average, the discount in Q2 was Rs 14,750 per car, while it was Rs 12,600 in Q1... This, of course, impacted our margins," he added.
On its growth in sales revenue, the company said it on account of robust demand for its new multi purpose vehicle Ertiga and "enhanced export realisations".
MSI scrip closed 2.27% up at Rs 1,394.55 on the BSE.


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