Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

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Jul 28th
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Home Volunteers Provide Hot meals to New Yorkers Hit by Hurricane Sandy

Volunteers Provide Hot meals to New Yorkers Hit by Hurricane Sandy

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Tzu Chi volunteers prepare 700 vegetarian hot meals to New Yorkers hit by Hurricane Sandy. One the first day, there are estimated over 1300 disaster victim came into the temporary shelter. Tzu Chi is to distribute hot meals for four continuous days. (Photo by Peter Lin)Tzu Chi volunteers in New York provided 700 hot meals to residents of New York forced to leave their homes because of the devastating Hurricane Sandy. They made 520 of the meals at Tzu Chi's branch office and bought the remaining 120 at a restaurant because of a shortage of time. They delivered them to a shelter in Manhattan where residents had been evacuated to avoid the storm.

Sandy was one of the worst storms to hit the Caribbean and the United States in recent history. It took more than 20 lives in the Caribbean and, on October 29, reached the eastern United States. It caused serious flooding in the states of New York and New Jersey and left 4.8 million homes without power.

In the early morning of October 30, members of the foundation’s New York branch who live in New Jersey and New York went straight to work. First, they recorded the damage in their neighborhoods; some used smart phones and others cameras.
In Bergen County, New Jersey, there was serious flooding, trees had collapsed and roads were blocked. “I am here in Glen Rock, New Jersey. In the entire neighborhood, nobody has power any more. Electricity is gone,” said program editor Nils Aucante. Power cables had been brought down. In Brooklyn, traffic was gridlocked with buses and cars; one could imagine that people had to abandon their cars due to the heavy rain and flooding the night before.

Fortunately, the area of Flushing, Queens, where Tzu Chi's New York office, is located, had normal power supply; supermarkets and stores were open. A newspaper hawker yelled: “It has never been seen in one hundred years.” One shop owner felt very lucky that he could run his business normally. “There's no subway or bus,” he said. “There are fewer people walking on the street. But life is gradually resuming.”
The city’s subway system was facing the most devastated flood in 100 years; all trains were suspended. The bus system gradually resumed. “We run on a Sunday schedule,” said one bus driver. “We are going to have a bus every 15 minutes to Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn. Manhattan is a little bit shaky.”

Volunteers transport the pack hot meals to shelter. (Photo by Peter Lin)The Tzu Chi volunteers were ready to do relief work immediately. The city branch is in Queens, which was not badly affected. The Office of Emergency Management requested that they provide 1,000 servings of hot meals each day for four days to a shelter in Manhattan. They set to work at once and began their preparations.

George Chang, CEO of the New York branch, said: “We have electricity, but not in Manhattan and other areas. Therefore we will cook meals here first. We also will order meals from nearby restaurants and send the hot meals.” Within three hours, the volunteers had prepared 580 servings of instant rice. But there was not enough time to prepare another 120 hot meals, so volunteers ordered them from nearby restaurants. When a kind restaurant owner heard the meals were for disaster victims, he responded immediately: “those are for the disaster survivors, I will pack more. The bill can wait. You just send the meals over first.” The volunteers worked together to bring a total of seven hundred hot meals into the hands of residents. When they were driving to the shelter, they found that a bridge closed by the storm had been opened.

Volunteer Duan Teng-chieh said that the power had been cut to avoid potential danger. Although the power was out, water and gas supply were normal. When he went to survey the supermarket in the morning, he found everything in order, with good supplies of food and drinking water.

Even after Sandy had passed, the mixture of strong wind and intermittent rain made the temperature drop. The city government is repairing the power system to let New Yorkers return to their normal lives as soon as possible.