Efforts intensify to restore power, distribute food post-Sandy

Efforts intensify to restore power, distribute food post-Sandy

Restoring energy to stricken households and providing them with food emerged as two key goals Thursday as disaster relief efforts intensified in parts of the north-eastern US recovering from superstorm Sandy, DPA reported.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was coordinating with the American Red Cross and other relief organizations to provide food, water and shelter to the tens of thousands of people in 16 states affected by the massive storm, officials with the two organizations said.

The emphasis was on returning electrical power to millions of households, said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

"In New Jersey, New York and Connecticut we are very much moving into a mass care operation," said Fugate in a conference call with reporters. Restoring electricity, water and cleaning up were the agency's top priorities, he said.

The Department of Energy said 4.6 million customers in 12 states were still without power, most of them in New York and New Jersey.

The American Red Cross also is active in the region, providing meals, shelter and other services, said Charley Shimanski, Red Cross senior vice president of disaster services. The organization set up hundreds of shelters in nine states and dispatched 12 mobile kitchens capable of preparing 200,000 meals per day.

"Feeding (people) is going to be our primary purpose as we move into the next 48 hours," said Shimanski, adding that the organization, which is supported by a cadre of volunteers, had already served 165 million meals throughout the disaster zone. Approximately 7,000 people were in Red Cross shelters. The organization, by Thursday, had deployed 230 emergency response vehicles, about two-thirds of its fleet.

FEMA, meanwhile, was helping people find temporary housing in rental units and hotels. Fugate said the agency would not use trailers such as the ones set up for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Sandy slammed the East Coast with 140-kilometre-per-hour winds, leaving more than 140 dead from Haiti to Canada, CNN reported. At least 76 were killed in the United States. As the cost of the storm was being calculated, donations were coming in from prominent people and businesses. The total amount donated to the Red Cross since the storm struck on Monday totaled 11 million dollars.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of two major newspapers in New York - the New York Post and Wall Street Journal - made a significant donation, as did the automobile companies Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen.

In New York City, people continued trying to get back to normal. More than half of the city's 23 subway lines were operating and buses, taxis and cars were rolling throughout the city.

LaGuardia Airport reopened for limited service, a day after the partial reopening of John F Kennedy and Newark airports. New York's school system was to remain closed for the remainder of the week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The lower third of the island of Manhattan - roughly the area south of the Empire State Building - was still without electricity. It took the brunt of a 4-metre sea surge blown in by the storm. The area includes the construction site at Ground Zero, where the new World Trade Centre is being built.

The daily monetary loss as a result of the storm was estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars in New York alone. Damage caused by Sandy throughout the 16-state region could run as high as 50 billion dollars, insurance industry experts said.

Some parts of New York City looked like London or Dresden, Germany, after World War II, Bloomberg said. The scene at Breezy Point, a seaside community on the southern tip of Long Island, where a fire destroyed 80 homes, was reminiscent of a war zone. The houses were reduced to ash and charred beams.

The death toll in New York City was 28, according to CNN.

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