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Stranded without electricity in the worst snowstorm to hit Buffalo, New York for 130 years, Israeli-born Daphna Zilber told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that she wished she could crawl back into the bomb shelter near her home in Metulla, where she spent this past summer.
The 23-year-old student of Economic and Judaic Studies at Buffalo University said she had spent five nights sleeping on friends' floors and even one night at her own digs.
"I had to use five blankets and wear thick ski pants," described Zilber, who has a suitcase of clothes and a down blanket stored in her car. "I've reached breaking point. There are trees on the ground and electrical poles that have fallen. The damage is unbelievable."
She said, however, that what has surprised her most about this natural disaster is that unlike what happened in Israel during the war with Hizbullah, "people here do not seem willing to help each other."
"I have been shocked by that," she continued. "In Israel, people hosted complete strangers in their homes, but here, even when my neighbor saw me shoveling the snow in front of my house, he did not even offer to help out. It really offended me."
Zilber, who is the vice president of the Jewish Student Union at her college, also said she was angry that the city of Buffalo was not more prepared for the storm and that official channels had provided little help or support to residents.
A state of emergency was declared Friday after the snowstorm, which caused the deaths of 12 people, left up to 60 centimeters of snow in parts of western New York. The Associated Press estimated that 380,000 homes originally lost power and - despite clean-up efforts - as of Wednesday nearly 150,000 homes and businesses were still without power. Electrical crews from 10 states and Canada are currently involved in the power restoration effort. Many people are now concerned about flooding as the snow begins to melt.
As for Zilber, her home is expected to be without electricity until Sunday, more than a week after the storm hit. "We returned to classes on Tuesday and I am supposed to have a midterm exam on Thursday. I hope my professor takes this into consideration," said Zilber, who is in her final semester.
She said many student dormitories were without power, and over the weekend, students camped out on campus. "People were sleeping everywhere - in the student union building, in the gym; it was unbelievable," she continued. "I can understand what victims of Katrina went through."
In August, the Post interviewed Zilber about her experiences living and growing up in Metulla, which was then under constant fire from Hizbullah rockets. She described how Katyushas were part of life there and said that even though her family was aware of the dangers, leaving one's home is never easy.
Zilber had arrived in Israel for her vacation on June 6, and not long after, was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. When the war broke out, Zilber was recovering from the operation at home in Metulla. She then spent the rest of the summer trying to tell people what life was really like on the frontline through e-mails and a blog, and volunteering with the local war effort.
"At least in the summer, I had my family around me," she said. "Here it is very depressing. I feel completely helpless."
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