Ban says UN got it wrong on superstorm
UNITED NATIONS - UN leader Ban Ki-moon made a public apology to member states Friday, November 9, for the global body's response after superstorm Sandy hit its UN headquarters.
The storm flooded a basement floor destroying or severely damaging about 50 luxury diplomatic cars and knocking out sensitive technology and the cooling system for the landmark building. Diplomatic missions reacted with fury.
"We fell short when it came to communications," Ban told a specially convened meeting of the 193 member UN General Assembly to discuss the storm.
"I fully understand the frustration of many delegates and staff members hoping for guidance, critical information or even just a reassuring word during the disaster," the UN secretary general said.
"Where there were mistakes, there must be lessons," he added.
The assembly held a minute's silence for the nearly 200 victims of superstorm Sandy across the Caribbean and United States before the diplomatic recriminations were aired.
The UN headquarters overlooks the East River which flooded many Manhattan Streets during the storm.
Missions complained that it took almost two days to get any information about the impact of Sandy on the UN headquarters where ambassadors' Cadillac, Lexus and Mercedes cars were left with dead rats and fish inside.
At a stormy meeting with leading UN officials this week, Algeria's UN ambassador Mourad Benmehidi said all missions "feel that the United Nations disappeared from the screens of the members for a very long time."
Ban said UN staff had tried to send out email alerts but found that many addresses they used were out of date or incorrect. "In the broadest sense we should have done more to update member states, staff alike and wider audience at large about the impact and implications of the storm," he added.
"We are looking closely into what worked and what did not work during the response and are determined to fix whatever went wrong," he said.
Ban said that the UN's global communications system did not work and that the UN Security Council had still been able to meet even though it was forced to move from its chamber. - Agence France-Presse