Crisis: 40,000 Need Homes as Massive Snow Storm Approaches NY
Rockaway residents gather around a fire following Superstorm Sandy at Rockaway Beach on November 3, in the Queens borough of New York City.
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Authorities in the north-east United States are warning of a new crisis facing the region as cold weather heads towards tens of thousands of people who still have no power or heat and are living in homes damaged by superstorm Sandy.
While much of New York City is approaching a semblance of normality, state governor Andrew Cuomo and the city’s mayor Michael Bloombergsaid on Sunday that plummeting temperatures were now one of the main threats facing residents in other stricken areas such as Staten Island and Long Island.
Cuomo warned of a “massive, massive housing problem”, with up to 40,000 people – mainly residents of public housing – needing relocating because of damage from the storm and the lack of electricity and heat.
“People are in homes that are uninhabitable,” Cuomo told reporters at a press briefing. “It’s going to become increasingly clear that they’re uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn’t come on.”
Fuel shortages are also having an impact on people with back-up generators. “There are continuing issues with the fuel delivery and fuel distribution system,” he said.
But he added that “there has been improvement, [and] there will be more improvement.”
The White House has sanctioned the release of an additional 12m gallons of unleaded fuel and 10m gallons of diesel. Much of that gas was being trucked to New Jersey and New York throughout the weekend.
In the worst-hit areas of New York and New Jersey, which are still suffering six days after Sandy hit, there is growing anger among residents at the official response.
In the Rockaways, an oceanfront section of Queens, Bloomberg was barracked by people as he toured the devastation over the weekend. Thousands there are still without power, and have been told they may remain so for days to come.
“When are we going to get some help?” one woman shouted during an angry confrontation on Saturday.
City officials have turned to opening warming shelters in preparation for a drop of temperatures overnight.
Elderly people were being urged to move to these temporary homes. Meanwhile, about 25,000 blankets were being handed out to those who refused to move.
But many believe the measures represent too little, too late, with some residents accusing the city of forgetting them in the rush to get the lights back on in the financial centre of lower Manhattan.
“Nothing right is going on here. There’s old ladies in my building that have got nothing,” one resident told Bloomberg during his walkabout in the Rockaways. In a one-to-one with the mayor, the man complained: “This is the first drop-off site over the bridge, [and] we can’t even get a bottle of water or a hot chocolate.”
Bloomberg promised that help was at hand, insisting that he understood their grievances.
“I spoke with many people who were worried and frustrated and cold,” the mayor said at a press briefing Saturday. “There is no power there and temperatures are dropping. Even those who have generators are having a hard time getting fuel.”
Gas shortages could continue for days, New Yorkers were told Sunday. Throughout the weekend, lines of cars queued up at pumps across New York. In neighbouring New Jersey, governor Chris Christie imposed rationing to cope with the scarcity of gas.
At least 10 arrests have so far been made in relation to confrontations and line jumping at petrol stations.
While parts of Staten Island and remote parts of Queens continue to struggle with blackouts, Manhattan is on its way to being restored to business as usual.