Misery continues in New York

2012-11-04 12:54
A woman weeps after learning that a neighbor presumed missing is okay while cleaning out her home in a neighborhood heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in the New Dorp Beach neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. Picture: Reuters

A woman weeps after learning that a neighbor presumed missing is okay while cleaning out her home in a neighborhood heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in the New Dorp Beach neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. Picture: Reuters

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New York - The lights went back on Saturday in lower Manhattan, prompting screams of sweet relief from residents who had been plunged into darkness for nearly five days by Superstorm Sandy. But that joy contrasted with deepening resentment in the city's outer boroughs and suburbs over a continued lack of power and maddening gas shortages.

Adding to the misery of those lacking power, heat or gasoline: dipping temperatures. Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged older residents without heat to move to shelters, and said 25 000 blankets were being distributed across the city.

"We're New Yorkers and we're going to get through it," the mayor said. "But I don't want anyone to think we're out of the woods."

Bloomberg also said that resolving gas shortages could take days. Lines snaked around gas stations for many blocks all over the stricken region, including northern New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie imposed rationing that recalled the worst days of fuel shortages in the 1970s.

But nowhere was the scene more confused than at a refuelling station in Brooklyn, where the National Guard gave out free gas - an effort to alleviate the situation. There, a mass of honking cars, desperate drivers and people on foot, carrying containers from empty bleach bottles to 19-litre Poland Spring water jugs, was just the latest testament to the misery unleashed by Sandy.

Chaos

"It's chaos, it's pandemonium out here," said Chris Damon, who had been waiting for 3½ hours at the site and had circled the block five times. "It seems like nobody has any answers."

Added Damon: "I feel like a victim of Hurricane Katrina. I never thought it could happen here in New York, but it's happened."

Damon, 42, had already been displaced to Brooklyn from his home in Queens, where he still lacked power, as did millions outside Manhattan - from Staten Island, the hardest-hit borough, to Westchester County and other suburban areas.

Domingo Isasi, waiting in a gas line on Staten Island, minced no words about the divide between Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

"The priorities are showing, simply by the fact that Manhattan got their power back," he said, adding that Staten Islanders are used to being lower on the list. "We're the bastard kids who keep getting slapped in the head and told to shut up," he said.

At a gas giveaway station in Queens, the scene was calmer but not happier. More than 400 cars stretched for more than a dozen blocks, with one tanker filling cars one at a time.

Anxiety about fuel

The 19 000-litre trucks from the Defence Department were dispatched to five locations around the New York City metropolitan area.

"Do not panic. I know there is anxiety about fuel," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Hours later, after the long lines formed, New York state officials said the public should stay away from the refuelling stations until emergency responders first got their gas and more supplies were made available. National Guard Colonel Richard Goldenberg added, however, that those who were already at the distribution sites would not be turned away.

Gas rationing went into effect at noon in 12 counties of northern New Jersey, where police began enforcing rules to allow only motorists with odd-numbered licence plates to refuel. Those with even-numbered plates must wait until Sunday.

Jessica Tisdale waited in her Mercedes SUV for 40 minutes at a gas station in Jersey City, but didn't quite understand the system and was ordered to pull away because of her even-numbered plate.

"Is it the number or the letter?" she asked. "I don't think it's fair. I've been in the line since before noon. I don't think it's fair. There's no clarity."

The officer who waved her out of line threw up his hands and shrugged.

Update

In Washington, President Barack Obama visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an update on superstorm recovery efforts and said "there's nothing more important than us getting this right."

He cited the need to restore power; pump out water, particularly from electric substations; ensure that basic needs are addressed; remove debris; and get federal resources in place to help transportation systems come back on line.

About 2.6 million people remained without power in six states after Sandy came ashore on Monday night.

About 900 000 people still didn't have electricity in the New York metropolitan area, including about 550 000 on Long Island, Cuomo said. About 80%of New York City's subway service has been restored, he added.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  superstorm sandy  |  weather
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