No Red Tape for Sandy Victims, Promises Obama
As storm-battered New York got slowly back on its feet on Wednesday, President Barack Obama surveyed the damage in neighboring New Jersey, where tens of thousands of homes are under water and millions of families without power.
"You guys are in my thoughts and prayers. We are going to be here for the long haul," Obama was quoted by AFP as having said during a visit to an emergency shelter in Brigantine, near Atlantic City, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
"We're going to not tolerate any red tape. We're not going to tolerate any bureaucracy. We're going to make sure that we get the help to you as quickly as we can," Obama said, adding that military aircraft were available to help move emergency repair crews around.
While much of New York and many more towns along the U.S. East Coast remained paralyzed following Monday's onslaught by Hurricane Sandy, the New York Stock Exchange got back to work, reported AFP.
John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports also made a limited reopening and LaGuardia was to follow suit Thursday. At last count, 19,500 flights had been cancelled because of Sandy.
Buses were back on New York streets and state Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that limited subway services would resume Thursday, although flooding and power outages kept large parts of the network immobilized.
Large sections of New York, including many skyscrapers in lower Manhattan, remained without electricity, and schools throughout the city were to remain shuttered for the rest of the week, AFP reported.
Obama said authorities were also focusing on New York's Long Island and Connecticut, where many seaside communities were flooded, as well as West Virginia, where the massive storm dumped a blanket of snow in remote areas.
The presidential election campaign, which went into a hiatus during the storm, was likewise coming back to life in the final run-up to election day on November 6.
Obama, who had suspended his re-election campaign but was constantly in the headlines as he responded to Sandy, arrived in New Jersey in the early afternoon to tour devastated areas.
The Democratic president won glowing public praise for his handling of the situation from Christie, an outspoken Republican and a key backer of his party's candidate, Mitt Romney.
Romney gingerly returned to the campaign trail in the key swing state of Florida, but he too addressed the plight of storm-battered Americans hundreds of miles to the north.
"So please, if you have an extra dollar or two, please, send them along and keep the people who have been in harm's way... in your thoughts and prayers," he told about 2,000 people in an airport hangar in Tampa.
New York police raised the storm-related death toll to 24 on Wednesday, with the overall U.S. toll passing 50, according to officials. Another 67 people died as Sandy swept through the Caribbean last week.
As of Wednesday, nearly two million customers had electricity restored, but another 6.2 million across 16 states remained without power, the Department of Energy said.
Insured losses from Sandy could run between seven and 15 billion dollars, according to initial industry estimates.
Two Brooklyn Jews were among the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The two, the daughter of a prominent local activist and her male friend, were crushed on Monday evening by a fallen tree and killed in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn.
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) umbrella organization has announced that it is establishing a Hurricane Relief Fund to contribute to recovery and rebuilding in the wake of the storm.