Power outages, blocked roads and flooding still plague thousands cleaning up in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy where the combined death toll has risen to more than 170.
More than 40 people were found dead in New York, about half of those on Staten Island, a borough across the harbour from lower Manhattan. Dozens of other casualties were also reported in New Jersey where Sandy made its landfall on Monday night. Families in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia also lost relatives, as did those to the south in Haiti and Cuba. One storm-related death was reported in Toronto, Canada – lashed by the tail of Sandy.
New York’s marathon, which usually draws 40,000 runners and thousands more spectators, was scrapped amid fears that resources and manpower would be diverted from those still without power and petrol. While for the most part the lights are on in New York, swaths of the city are without electricity.
The Obama administration on Friday directed the Defence Logistics Agency to buy up to 12m gallons of unleaded fuel and 10m gallons of diesel fuel for distribution to areas affected by Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. In West Virginia, helicopters checked mountainous rural areas for people who may still be cut off by heavy snow
With scores of residents still displaced because of Sandy and power outages at some polling stations, voters expected challenges on 6 November when America goes to the polls. New Jersey’s solution: vote early. The state ordered election offices to remain open through the weekend so anyone with concerns about voting on Tuesday can tick a paper ballot.
“Everybody in New Jersey will have a way to vote,” Governor Chris Christie said. “It will probably take us longer to count the votes, but it will be a late night anyway.”
Storm-related voting disruptions seemed unlikely to change the outcome of the presidential election, since the biggest problem areas are in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut which are all expected to go for President Obama, the New York Times reported today. But there were fears that many voters may not show up at all because they are grappling with damage to their homes or petrol shortages.
On a more positive note, more subway and rail lines opened on Friday, including Amtrak’s New York to Boston route on the northeast corridor. Atlantic City casinos were told they could reopen and power was expected to return over the weekend to downtown Manhattan, where community groups were conducting door-to-door checks on the elderly and others who may not be able to navigate darkened hallways and stairwells.
At least one estimate said the total US damage from the storm could at run as high as $50bn, with the cost to New York alone estimated at $18bn.
Before making its landfall in New Jersey, Sandy left devastation across Haiti, where the bulk of the Caribbean deaths were felt. In its wake, the storm has triggered an outbreak of cholera. Some 300 cases are suspected and a month-long state of emergency has been declared. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe described the situation as “frightening.”
To the north, Canada and US areas along the eastern seaboard were reporting shipping delays related to Sandy. Canada was relatively unscathed, however, hit mainly with rain and cold as Sandy lost its intensity. Post-Sandy power has been restored to Toronto – Canada’s business centre – where 60,000 lost power during the peak of the crisis.