New York rations fuel after Superstorm Sandy

New York has imposed a petrol rationing plan that allows motorists to fill up every other day as the city continued to feel the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

New York rations fuel after Superstorm Sandy

New York has imposed a petrol rationing plan that allows motorists to fill up every other day as the city continued to feel the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

The nor'easter that scuppered recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy pulled away from New York and New Jersey today, leaving hundreds of thousands of new people in darkness after a blanket of thick, wet snow snapped storm-weakened trees and downed power lines.

Sandy slammed the coast and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damage and hundreds of thousands of customers in New York and New Jersey were still waiting for the electricity to come back on, with cold and tired people losing patience.

To add to their woe, the nor'easter then brought gusting winds, rain and snow on Wednesday, though not the flooding that was anticipated.

Snow blanketed several states and prevented recovery efforts spawned by Sandy as storm-weakened trees snapped and power lines came down before the nor'easter pulled away.

A new petrol rationing plan was put in place from today by which motorists can fill up every other day. Police will be on forecourts to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island.

"This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance, so the lines aren't too oppressive and that we can get through this," New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Mr Bloomberg said the system worked well in New Jersey, where lines went from a two-hour wait to 45 minutes after governor Chris Christie announced a similar rationing plan.

But some who have been without power are demanding investigations of utility companies they say are not working fast enough. An angry New York governor Andrew Cuomo joined the calls, ripping into the utilities he said were unprepared and badly managed.

"Privately I have used language my daughters couldn't hear," he fumed. "It's unacceptable the longer it goes on because the longer it goes on, people's suffering is worse."

The power companies have said they are dealing with damage unprecedented in its scope and doing the best they can. At the peak, more than 8.5 million homes and businesses across 21 states lost power. As of yesterday, that was down to about 750,000, almost entirely in New York and New Jersey.

The nor'easter knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers in New York and New Jersey, erasing some of the progress made by utility crews.

"We lost power last week, just got it back for a day or two, and now we lost it again," said John Monticello of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. "Every day it's the same now: Turn on the gas burner for heat. Instant coffee. Use the iPad to find out what's going on in the rest of the world."

New Jersey did not have a damage estimate of its own, but others have put Sandy's overall toll at up to 50 billion dollars (£31.4bn), making it the second-most expensive storm in US history, behind Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2005.

Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the dead in New York and New Jersey.

In a reminder of Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it was moving manufactured housing into New York and New Jersey.

FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said the disaster relief agency had several hundred mobile homes in its inventory of emergency supplies and has started moving some of them to the disaster zone. He said it was unclear yet if the agency needed to order more of the temporary homes.

More than 56,000 people have also been ruled eligible for FEMA's individual and households programme, which provides money for renting a new place or housing repairs.

FEMA was widely criticised for using trailers after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated New Orleans and parts of the Gulf Coast in 2005, after many of them were later found to contain toxic levels of formaldehyde.

On Long Island, where more than 262,000 customers were without power and tempers were rising, Long Island Power Authority spokesman Mark Gross would not comment on the criticism, saying only that the utility was focused on restoring power.

Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesman for Con Ed, the chief utility in New York City, said: "I think we're going to be able to power through. Our objective was to get power restored to everyone by the weekend, and we're still working with that goal."

The Edison Electric Institute, the industry's main lobbying group, has called restoring power in Sandy's wake the "single biggest task the utility industry has ever faced".

Brian Wolff, EEI senior vice president, said 67,000 utility workers from all around the country were concentrating their efforts on the task.

"An hour without power is too long. Power is an essential commodity. Our people get that. We are putting every resource to restoring power," he said. But he added: "This was not a minor event."

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