Storm Sandy: New York marathon cancelled after protests


BBC's Steve Kingstone: "A street re-made by a vicious act of nature'

This year's New York City marathon has been cancelled in the aftermath of the super storm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced.

In a statement, he said: "We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it."

Plans to press ahead with Sunday's event had prompted widespread anger in cyclone-ravaged parts of the city.

Ninety-six US deaths, 40 of them in New York, have been blamed on Sandy.

The storm had already killed 69 people as it swept across the Caribbean.

Across the US East Coast, some 3.5 million homes and businesses - 1.2 million in New York state alone - still have no electricity, four days after the storm made landfall.

Petrol shortages have also caused forecourt confrontations from New Jersey to Connecticut - one motorist was arrested after pulling a gun during an argument at a petrol queue.

In a bid to ease the fuel crunch on Friday, the US waived a law that normally bans foreign oil tankers from entering its north-eastern ports.

The Obama administration also ordered the purchase of up to 12m gallons (45m litres) of petrol and up to 10m gallons of diesel for areas affected by Sandy.

On Friday evening, musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera and Billy Joel performed in an hour-long televised benefit for those affected by the storm.

New York marathon runner: ''We are very angry.... (they should have) cancelled it before we came''

Staten Island's anger

Mayor Bloomberg had previously insisted that the marathon would go ahead and would "give people something to cheer about".

But in his statement, he said that while hosting the event would not, as critics had said, divert resources from the recovery effort, "it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division".

"We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event - even one as meaningful as this - to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track," he said.

Food, blankets, portable toilets, generators and other items originally intended for the race are being donated by the organisers to storm-hit areas of the city.

The New York marathon is the largest in the world, with than 47,000 runners - about 20,000 of them from overseas - registered to take part this year.

It had been due to start in Staten Island, the hardest-hit part of the city, where 19 people died as a result of Sandy.

But before the race was cancelled, US Representative Michael Grimm, whose district covers the island, told CNN: "We're still pulling bodies out of the water and the mayor is worried about marathon runners and returning to life as normal."

Other local politicians, Republicans and Democrats, had also demanded the race be stopped.

Anger has also been rising in Staten Island at delays in bringing aid, as residents pick through the debris of their storm-pummelled homes.

Sandy swamped the low-lying borough with record tidal surges, sweeping entire houses off their foundations.

The bodies of two boys, aged two and four, who were torn from their mothers' arms by rushing floodwaters, were recovered in a Staten Island marsh on Thursday.

Time-lapse footage shows Sandy's passage over New York City - Footage courtesy New York Times/ Antoine Roux

Earlier, some runners who had signed up for the race told local website Gothamist they would instead volunteer on Staten Island. As the cancellation was announced, other runners said they would do the same.

However, some runners criticised the mayor's decision as having coming too late, after they had already arrived in the city.

"We spent thousands of dollars to bring our family here, paid for hotel rooms, airline tickets," said Terri Butler from Houston, Texas. "Cancel it before we come."

Meanwhile, New York utility company Consolidated Edison has announced it has begun restoring electricity to parts of lower Manhattan - including tens of thousands in the East Village and Lower East Side.

The firm says many in Manhattan will see electricity return by Saturday, and most of the city will be connected again by 11 November. But some customers could be without power for weeks.

New Jersey remains the hardest hit by outages, affecting 1.5m people.

In the city of Hoboken, on the banks of the Hudson river, the National Guard has been evacuating those stranded by floodwaters.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    #2 Is there anything we in the UK can do to help those people

    Dont worry, this wasnt New Orleans. This affected rich people so the US of A will get it sorted out soon enough

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    You can't really blame runners for moaning. Yes that sat watching they're TV's but can people thousands of miles away, who have never experienced such storms, really know how bad things were? Poor leadership is the problem. Bloomberg was quick enough to back Obama this week, shame he couldn't have been so quick to cancel the race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Obviously running a marathon in this situation would be inappropriate. I'm glad they've cancel(l)ed it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    To those people who think that it would have been a "glorious" thing to have had the marathon on Sunday... Go tell that to the thousands that are without homes, those who lost a loved one, those without food...

    Let's be a little more human and respect the feelings and the adversity they are going through. This is not the time to have a marathon or, which is worse, a Halloween party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    There must a be lot of runners moderating this for the bbc my post was removed because I called the runners selfish. I forgot running round the streets is more important than people losing their lives and homes

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    totally agree with comments below - yes should have been canx sooner but now there runners can help by not getting in way of rescue efforts i.e. needing medical care - emergency services stretched enough. Got back from NY myself yesterday having been there for hurricane. Can donate aid via American Red Cross

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Is that woman for real.She should be hanging her head in shame after her petty money rant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The Mayor has handled the whole situation badly, not only has he made a mess of the clean up (those in the poorer parts of New York are really struggling) he has allowed the idea of a Marathon through streets that only a few days ago were the scene of a major disaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    As suggested this morning, it will be nice if the runners use their energy to help the clean up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    There's a whole lot of "shoulda, woulda, coulda" going on. All we can deal with is what is, and the marathon is cancelled. New York is dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, and recovery is the most important thing. Maybe whining would-be marathoners should donate their "thousands of dollars" to the effort and stay home!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I am totally shocked that people thought the NY marathon would go ahead in the midst of the devastation in the city and surrounding areas. Whilst it should have been cancelled earlier I think the Mayor hoped it would help to get things back to normal ASAP but the reaction of some folk is truly disgusting. Money and disruption to their lives sems to be their proirity, have they no shame!!

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I love New York.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I would have thought it would be cancelled anyway but preasure to carry on as normal "like Brit stiff upper lip" would have drawn out the decision.

    Biggest problem I think is peoples expectations. Many expect everything to be fixed quickly & help to be provided, thats not the achievable reality & people need to be more realistic & accept that neither god nor humans can rebuild N York in a week

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    2. Listener
    "Is there anything we in the UK can do to help those people?"

    I admire your desire to aid the vulnerable, but this is the United States of America we're talking about. The richest country on the planet. If they still can't or won't scrimp together enough of their vast wealth to aid these people, why should the already-burdened UK? They need to sort this imbalance out themselves.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    To Listener: the US is the still the wealthiest nation on earth. Why should people in any other country donate money ? The US government has the wherewithall to sort out the problems. Having lived in the US for 6 years, I can assure of the complete indifference of most US citzens to disasters in any other part of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Marathon - uplifting?
    I guess the runners would not be slogging through and over all the devastation. I'll bet the persons affected might like to take up and run as well, but they (alas) have no place to go.
    This was one of the silliest considerations I have ever read.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    70% of Haiti's crops have been destroyed by the same Hurricane and the entire country, which has never fully recovered from the earthquake a couple of years ago, has been declared a "state of emergency"... yet we seem to ignore this and instead focus on a marathon being cancelled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    It seemed pretty obvious that the marathon would be cancelled after witnessing the devastation, and probably it would have been sensible to cancel it on Monday.

    But I think what has forced the organisers hand at this late stage, is that now with the roads being gridlocked and no petrol there was no other choice.


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