New York mayor resolute amid superstorm recovery

A sign is seen on the Garden State Parkway near Woodbridge, New Jersey, after a gas rationing system ordered by Gov. Chris Christie went into effect.
A sign is seen on the Garden State Parkway near Woodbridge, New Jersey, after a gas rationing system ordered by Gov. Chris Christie went into effect.

The lights are back on in lower Manhattan to the relief of residents who had been plunged into darkness for nearly five days by superstorm Sandy.

However, resentment festered on Sunday in the city’s outer boroughs and suburbs over a lack of power and petrol shortages.

Falling temperatures added to the misery of those lacking electricity, heat or fuel and Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged older residents without heat to move to shelters, adding that 25,000 blankets were being distributed across the city.

Mr Bloomberg said: “We’re New Yorkers and we’re going to get through it. But I don’t want anyone to think we’re out of the woods.”

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

Ten people were arrested at petrol stations in various disputes over line jumping, police said.

Nowhere was the scene more confused than at a refuelling station at the armoury in Brooklyn, where the National Guard gave out free petrol – an effort to alleviate the situation.

A mass of honking cars, desperate drivers and people on foot, carrying containers from empty bleach bottles to five-gallon Poland Spring water jugs, was just the latest testament to the misery unleashed by Sandy.

“It’s chaos, it’s pandemonium out here,” said Chris Damon, who had been waiting for three and a half hours at the site and had circled the block five times. “It seems like nobody has any answers.”

At a fuel 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.

Petrol 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 license plates to refuel. Those with even-numbered plates must wait until Sunday.

In Washington, President Barack Obama visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an update on superstorm recovery efforts.

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 did not have electricity in the New York metropolitan area, including about 550,000 on Long Island. About 80 % of New York City’s subway service has been restored.

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