'I don't know how we'll survive. All the shops are closed. People are without food and water'

Nikhil Kumar meets struggling Manhattanites


"It was already hard and suddenly this," said David Mac, standing in a puddle inside ABC Central Cleaners, down the road from the transformer that blew up as New York's East River spilled over into south-eastern Manhattan. The explosion took out the lights; the water took out the motors that power ABC's cleaning equipment. "There's an 8ft basement downstairs," Mr Mac, ABC's owner, said. "The water was eight feet high."

Yesterday, he was still clearing away Superstorm Sandy's leftovers: sodden bills and records, damaged floor mats, bins filled with dirty water.

"I don't know if we'll get any help. No one here gets flood insurance. We're in Manhattan. Who thought this would happen?"

As a precaution, he had hung up as many of his customers' clothes as he could on rails suspended from the ceiling. "But we have to get new motors," he said, pointing to a row of washing machines behind a dirty plastic screen. Fixing them alone will cost around $35,000 (£22,000), he said. And then there's the cost of new flooring and supplies. "It's not like everything was OK before," he said, moving a set of plastic storage drawers overflowing with water. "Look at this, look at the supermarket next door."

The supermarket was locked up. But water was still seeping out beneath the shutters.

The trail of destruction left in Sandy's wake has seen at least 59 people killed in the US. Many more, like Mr Mac, are struggling to carry on after one of the most ferocious storms to strike the East Coast.

"I don't know how people will survive," said Patricia Troche, who lives in a public housing complex across the street from the cleaners. As the sun finally reappeared over the city yesterday, Mrs Troche was throwing out a bin-bag full of food, ruined in the power cut.

"I don't know what to do. My husband has a heart condition and he didn't want to leave and my son didn't want to leave, so we stayed. Now I'm throwing away food and it's not like I can go and buy more around here: all the shops are closed, everything.

"There's so many people here without food, water. You can still get water on my floor, but higher up, there's nothing. What are these people supposed to do?"

Nearby, a homeless man, who gave his name as Rob, was only just returning to the area after escaping the flood waters. Before Sandy, he often spent his nights on the pavement. "I ran. I couldn't do anything else, so I ran up," he said, gesturing away from the riverfront. He got away, but he had to shed his belongings. He spent Monday night hiding from the wind in doorways and side-streets uptown. "I waited too long to get out. I didn't have much – but it's all I had."

At its height, the East River extended almost three blocks inland in this down-at-heel section of the island, according to Mrs Troche and other residents. Trees were felled and cars submerged. Two days on, Alfredo Irizzarry was waiting for a mechanic to come and fix his engine. "The river just came straight down here. People were screaming and shouting, running up the road. All those cars down there on Avenue C got flooded," he said. "They've been towing them away since yesterday."

"My car got flooded," he added, shaking his head. Then his father, who was standing nearby, weighed in: "It was a disaster. It's still a disaster."

A couple of blocks south, in the Lower East Side, one of Manhattan's poorest localities, the streetlights were still dark and wardens were directing traffic, mostly garbage trucks, police patrols, fire engines and buses. Few taxis or private cars were on the roads. Many of those that were had, like Mr Irizzarry's vehicle, been "totalled".

"You don't expect things like this," Mr Irizzarry said. "Not around here."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A general view of the Houses of Parliament on July 6, 2009 in London, England.  

The next general election will be one of the most exciting in recent history. Here's why

Christopher Goodfellow

The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli on Twitter is disgusting, but it can be stopped

Anna Jonsson
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments