Many in US still waiting for power, fuel after Sandy

Frustration grows in Northeast US as 3.5 million still left without power, fuel or guidance three days before US election.

By REUTERS
November 3, 2012 07:31
4 minute read.
Obama and Chris Christie comfort a storm victim

Obama and Chris Christie comfort a storm victim 370 (R). (photo credit: Larry Downing / Reuters)

 
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NEW YORK - While power returned to much of Manhattan and fuel supplies were headed for the disaster zone, residents of some of the hardest-hit areas faced a long wait for electricity and help after superstorm Sandy's devastating strike on the US Northeast.

With the US presidential election just three days away, at least 3.5 million homes and businesses remained without power in a region choked with storm debris and long gas lines reminiscent of the 1970s-era US fuel shortage. Angry residents wondered when their lives would return to normal.

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President Barack Obama won early praise for the federal response to Sandy, which hammered the US northeast coast on Monday with 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds and a record surge of seawater that swamped homes in New Jersey and flooded streets and subway tunnels in New York City.

But continued television and newspaper images of upset storm victims could hurt the Democrat, who is locked in a virtual dead heat with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

TV images might not be a problem in some of the worst-hit New York communities, like Broad Channel, Queens, which face waits of nine days or longer for electricity.

Residents complain they are being ignored.



"We have nobody down here with video coverage," said Grace Lane, a grandmother who defied evacuation orders and rode out the storm in her second-story bedroom as water rushed through the first floor of her house.

Many houses were gutted by 5 feet (1.5 meters) of floodwater that raced through Broad Channel, where residents hauled broken furniture and soggy belongings out of their homes on Friday.

In a sign of security worries in the neighborhood, one garage full of debris stood open with a sign next to it reading: "LOOTERS WILL BE CRUCIFIED - GOD HELP YOU."

Fuel is on the way

Moving to ease fuel shortages, the Obama administration directed the purchase of up to 12 million gallons (45 million liters) of unleaded fuel and 10 million gallons (38 million liters) of diesel, to be trucked to New York and New Jersey for distribution.

The government announced it would tap strategic reserves for diesel for emergency responders and waived rules that barred foreign-flagged ships from taking gas, diesel and other products from the Gulf of Mexico to Northeast ports.

The moves could help to quell anger triggered by growing lines - some of them miles long - at gas stations. Less than half of the stations in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey were operating on Friday.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered gas rationing in 12 counties to begin on Saturday under an "odd-even" system in which motorists with license plates ending in odd numbers would be able to buy gas on odd-numbered days.

"This system will ease the strain on those gas stations still operating while we work to bring more online," Christie said in a statement.

New York City Marathon cancelled

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also moved to tamp down rising anger in the most populous US city by dropping plans to hold the city's annual marathon. The city had been expecting more than 40,000 runners in Sunday's event.

“We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners, which organizes the race, said yesterday in a statement.

“We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event -- even one as meaningful as this -- to distract attention away from all the critically important work being done to recover from the storm.”

The marathon has become a part of autumn in New York, a day when the city turns out to cheer the best runners in the world as well as joggers lucky enough to gain entry. It was run weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, even as crews worked to find human remains and clear the mound of rubble from the collapsed World Trade Center towers.

“The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination,” the statement from the mayor and the NYRR said.

About 47,000 participants had registered for the race, including about 20,000 from overseas, according to NYRR spokesman Richard Finn. The event accounts for 40,000 more hotel rooms than usual per day for at least five days, said NYC & Co., the city’s tourism office.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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