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2.7M without power; Sandy death toll 113

Nov. 3, 2012 at 10:26 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Life was returning to normal in parts of New York and New Jersey, five days after Hurricane Sandy hit, but other areas were dark and isolated, authorities said.

About 2.7 million customers in 15 states and the District of Columbia were without power Saturday, with at least some facing perhaps another week before it is restored, CNN reported.

The U.S. death toll from Hurricane Sandy rose Saturday, reaching 113, the Los Angeles Times reported, up from 97 Friday. The newspaper said 48 of the deaths were in New York, followed by New Jersey with 24, Pennsylvania 14, Maryland 11, West Virginia seven and Connecticut four, North Carolina two, Virginia two and New Hampshire one.

Residents of many beach towns on the South Shore of Long Island were waiting for power to be restored, and even for some sign someone was in charge, The New York Times reported. Vikki Quinn's house in Long Beach was flooded and her possessions were piled in the yard.

"I just keep waiting for someone with a megaphone and a car to just tell us what to do," she told the Times. "I'm lost."

President Barack Obama convened a meeting of top emergency officials in Washington, with Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut joining by telephone.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters members of the Cabinet reported on their meetings with local officials, first responders and citizens, and the president spoke individually during the meeting with the governors and local officials, asking whether there are "additional federal resources that could be brought to bear to meet some of the needs in their communities."

Earnest said the president also got a briefing from the National Weather Service on a storm forecast to reach the U.S. Northeast Wednesday. Forecasters said the system could come with high winds, substantial rainfall and perhaps cooler temperatures.

Lights were back on Saturday in most of Manhattan. Subway trains began running between Manhattan and the Long Island boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens for the first time since the storm flooded the tunnels under the East River, the Times said.

Cuomo said about 60 percent of those in New York who lost power had it back by Saturday. On Long Island, however, more than half of the 1.2 million homes and businesses affected by the storm were still in the dark.

"We are getting through it," Cuomo said at a news briefing. "The worst is behind us."

Gas remained in short supply. Cuomo said 8 million gallons had been delivered, with 28 million more expected from commercial sources and 12 million from the Defense Department.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other top officials were to visit some of the worst-hit areas.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday announced the opening of the first of several disaster assistance service centers that will provide information about applying for emergency social and economic benefits. All of the centers will be operated by the city's Human Resources Administration in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will be open seven days a week.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 98,000 people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut had registered for federal assistance and more than $40 million in aid has been approved, a statement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

New York City inspectors are posting color-coded placards on buildings and homes to warn people not to enter some buildings.

"Let me just reiterate what a red placard means: It is not a demolition order; if you read carefully what's written on it, it says it's not a demolition order. It is an order not to enter for your safety," Bloomberg said.

"A yellow placard requires you to have a safety inspection before entering. And I also want to emphasize that's just because water may be out of the basement doesn't mean that it's safe to turn on electricity, or a boiler, or a generator to power your home. It really is a significant fire risk to do so.

"One of the things that struck me was people kept thinking that if a generator miraculously showed up in the neighborhood all would be OK. That's just not the case. When all of the wiring is covered with water, salt water in particular, you have to do a lot of work before you can re-energize those lines. And so we've already seen some cases where when electricity was turned on there were fires and we lost some other houses. We want to make sure that does not happen."

The number of residences and businesses without power as of Friday night was 95,000 in Manhattan; 26,000 in the Bronx; 34,000 in Brooklyn; 84,000 in Queens and 48,000 in Staten Island, the New York Daily News reported.

"Two networks in Lower Manhattan will take a little longer to bring back online," Bloomberg said. "However, even with crews working around the clock, it's going to take a lot longer to bring power back to areas that are served by overhead power lines -- and that includes the Long Island Power Authority's more than 30,000 customers on the Rockaways."

In New Jersey, Christie allowed Atlantic City casinos to reopen Friday. Some did, and others said they would open during the weekend.

New Jersey Transit began running trains on the Northeast Corridor between Trenton and New York and said most buses were running again by Saturday morning. Other rail lines remained shut down.

New York City has 13 food distribution sites opened, staffed by National Guard members, New York City Service volunteers and by the staff of the Salvation Army. Since Thursday, they distributed about 290,000 meals and nearly a half-million bottles of water, Bloomberg said.

"Goldman Sachs, through its urban investment group, will match the $5 million New York City is providing in funding for small businesses affected by the hurricane," Bloomberg said. "These funds will be loaned to businesses in Zone A and other areas where there have been power outages and severe flooding.

Businesses had contributed more than $33 million in donations to Sandy relief as of early Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civil Leadership Center told CNNMoney.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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