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Hove pupils caught up in superstorm Sandy
A party of Brighton and Hove schoolchildren are caught up in the drama of the worst recorded storm to hit the east coast of America.
The 30 pupils from Blatchington Mill School flew to the USA on Sunday for a once in a lifetime trip.
But just hours after the Year 11 GCSE business studies class arrived in Manhattan, superstorm Sandy – which has battered the east coast of America and has killed more than 30 people, including at least ten in New York – struck.
President Barack Obama has declared a “major disaster” in the city as winds of up to 80mph swept through, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
As skyscrapers swayed in the strong winds and flooding hit tunnels, the subway system and the electricity grid, huge sections of the city were left without power and thousands of people were evacuated.
The Blatchington Mill pupils were forced to stay inside their hotel, the Milford Plaza, near Times Square, as the storm raged outside.
Their planned trip to the heart of America’s financial sector, Wall Street, had to be abandoned because it was too dangerous.
A member of staff at the hotel said Monday night was “terrible”. She said: “It was so, so windy. Cars were swimming down the street, especially in Downtown. They were just swimming and there was no power.”
Darren Kelly, the trip leader, has stayed in contact with the school and Blatchington Mill deputy headteacher Ruth King has been tweeting messages from him using the twitter name @Blatch_deputies.
Last night Ms King said she was proud of the pupils for their behaviour.
She said the children were not inany danger, adding: “Before they went we knew there were predictions. But they have been looking forward to this for months and months and it really is the trip of a lifetime.
"There have been some variations in their timetable.”
The pupils are due back on Thursday but it is not yet clear if their flight will go ahead. Jenny Barnard-Langston, Blatchington Mill’s chair of governors, said: “They are fine and have not experienced anything like what we have seen and heard on the news.
“The kids are aware of howunusual it is and what is happening in the city. It is momentous.”
The pupils boarded the last flight to New York before the city’s airports were shut for safety reasons.
Marcus Sulley’s son, 15-year-old Fred Baxter-Sulley, is one of those on the trip. He said on Monday night his son was banned from leaving his hotel room.
He said: “It is quite exciting. He said it was very windy but he was not cowering in a cupboard.”
A class from Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Hove was also meant to arrive in New York but its flight was cancelled due to the impending storm.
Three members of the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party are also in the east coast of America. All three were in there supporting President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Tim Lunnon, of Preston Park, was heading for Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania but has been prevented by Sandy. He and Keith Day are grounded in Washington.
He said: “Washington DC is effectively shutdown. No Metro or transportation out. All attractions shut.”
Yesterday he told The Argus: “It was very windy. The rain was quite heavy – and constant so that it soaked all that you were wearing in no time at all.”
Tom French, from Brighton, is in Rockville, Maryland, and is waiting for the storm to arrive. He described how the family he was with was “making quiche” for neighbours in case of terrible weather.
He said: “We’ve brought the pumpkins into the house and everything is on charge in case the power cuts out.”
Lewes is also showing its support for America.
Lewes, Delaware, has been particularly badly hit by Sandy and people living in Sussex’s town of the same name are supporting them.
A popular Lewes, Sussex internet forum has sent out messages of support to “all Lewesians”.
One person said: “Significant flooding reported in Lewes, Delaware. Hope everyone gets out OK.” Another person added: “Hope there is no major damage.”
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