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Superstorm Sandy: Britons caught up in New York holiday horror – Telegraph

October 30, 2012
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“It was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime but it’s been horrible, really horrible. I’m finding it all very overwhelming,” said Gail Tudball, brushing away tears.

The 50-year-old from Wales was one of thousands of British tourists caught up in the drama of Hurricane Sandy.

She and three friends were forced to evacuate their midtown hotel on Monday afternoon after a crane in a nearby skyscraper buckled in the high winds and hung perilously from the 90 storey building.

The women had to stand out in the cold and rain for more than two hours after police barricaded the streets and refused to let them back into their hotel. Along with other tourists, they were given temporary sanctuary in the Ritz Carlton but had to leave when too many people crowded the lobby seeking respite from the storm.

With other evacuees, they were taken in a coach with a police escort through the dark and debris-strewn streets of Manhattan to the Louis D Brandeis High School on West 84th Street, which had been designated a temporary shelter.
Confused and upset and not sure where she and her friends would spend the night, Ms Tudball’s nerves were at breaking point.

“I don’t know where I am. I know I’m bottling it but I really don’t want to go outside again,” she said, voice trembling. Her friend Margaret Smith said they had all been forced to leave their passports behind in their hotel and they had no personal belongings, not even toothbrushes.

Heather and Paul Cooke and their daughter Elise, aged 11, from Halifax, were also among British tourists evacuated from the three-star Salisbury Hotel on West 57th Street.

The youngster was clearly upset as the family waited to hear where they were going to spend the night.

“We’ve paid loads of money for this holiday but I really don’t want to be here,” said Elise, as she was comforted by her mother.

When the crane collapsed, she said, she heard people shouting in the hotel corridor. “My Dad told me to pack up my stuff but the people from the hotel said we couldn’t take anything with us. So I just grabbed all my teddies.”

She was holding on to two cuddly toys and said she had another four in her backpack.

Elise’s mother Heather admitted she too had been shaken by the events surrounding the hurricane.

“I was really upset today,” she said.” Normally I’m the calm one but it’s been an absolute nightmare. The worst thing is that we’ve left all our stuff in the hotel and I don’t know when we’ll be able to get it back.”

David and Anne Lewin and their 16-year-old son Jack from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, were also in the Salisbury Hotel when they heard the crane collapse.

“There was a very loud noise and a piece of scaffolding shot past the window and almost hit a car in the street below,” said Mr Lewin.

Throughout the stressful day they had made friends with the Maggs family from Corsham, near Bath, who had also been evacuated from their hotel by the storm.

Sarah and John Maggs and their daughters Jessica (14) and Katie (12) said they were trying to stay cheerful after having a narrow escape earlier in the day.

“The wind was howling and it was pouring with rain so we went to the Park Lane Hotel,” recalled Mrs Maggs. “I went in the revolving door and Jessica jumped in the same section as me. There was this big gust of wind which blew with a whump and the other two sections of the door compacted together. The whole thing collapsed in millions of pieces of glass. If Jessica had been in the other section, she’d have been cut to bits. We were very lucky.”

After waiting in the high school for several hours on Monday evening, the British tourists were taken to temporary accommodation in hotels scattered across the city.

It was not known when they will be allowed to go back and collect their belongings. Many hope to fly out on Tuesday night and need their passports to do so.

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