After the storm, comes the plague

Published: 02 November, 2012 06:54 IST | Agencies |

Even as the American East Coast tries to piece back their lives after Superstorm Sandy destroyed everything in its path, there are growing fears of another flood � rats and vermin that could cause an outbreak of diseases

New York City could be set for another flood — this time, of rats. In the wake of superstorm Sandy, thousands of rats are expected to be forced from their underground lairs and onto the Big Apple’s streets.

The storm surge has caused severe flooding to subways and road tunnels, where the rodents are known to live and breed, driving them to the surface in search of food and new homes.


Rick Ostfeld, from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York said that the rodents could infest Manhattan’s streets and spread disease.

“Rats are incredibly good swimmers. And they can climb,” he said. “One of things we know can exacerbate disease is massive dispersal. Rats are highly social individuals and live in a fairly stable social structure.

Nowhere to go: Floodwaters fill the Bowling Green subway station in New York. Pic/AFP

If this storm disturbs that, rats could start infesting areas they never did before. It’s not just about the high winds and rain. A rat disturbance is something we should be concerned about.”

He said the rat dispersal could result in increased risk of infectious diseases carried by rats, including leptospirosis, hantavirus, typhus, salmonella, and even the plague.

He said they would feast on new sources of food including rotting garbage, other rats, pigeons, and fish washed ashore during the flood.

Oil spill
US oil company Shell confirmed yesterday that Superstorm Sandy had triggered an oil spill in the waters off New York City, without specifying an amount, saying clean up efforts were underway.

A news report said 300,00 gallons of diesel fuel spilled. “At least two diesel storage tanks were damaged and an unknown quantity of product was released,” the company said in a statement.  

US president vows speedy return to normalcy
Meanwhile, US President Obama surveyed the damage along the storm-ravaged Jersey shore on Wednesday. “We are here for you, and we will not forget,” the president said in a message to the storm-battered region. “We will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you rebuilding.”   

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