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Homeland Security

Obama Gets First Hand Look at Storm Damage

October 31, 2012

by VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama has been getting a look at the devastation in storm-battered New Jersey, as parts of the region struggle to return to business as usual.

The president toured the east coast U.S. state by helicopter Wednesday with Governor Chris Christie. Christie, a Republican normally at odds with the Democratic president, praised the Obama administration Tuesday for what he said has been an "outstanding" response to Hurricane Sandy's destruction.

But for some areas it could still be some time before the impact of that response is felt.
Earlier, floodwaters and floating debris hindered New Jersey as it tried to battle a series of natural gas fires in the coastal town of Mantoloking, where several homes burned to the ground two days ago.

No far away, in New York City, people did their best to get back to work.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street to ring the opening bell. It is the first time traders have returned to work since Hurricane Sandy walloped the region, flooding parts of the city's famed subway system.

Officials say it will likely be several more days before the subways are operating again, and ongoing power outages have forced new evacuations at area hospitals. But two of New York's three airports are beginning limited service, though the third - LaGuardia Airport - remains closed because of flood damage.

Airports, railroads, and local public transit in other cities along the Eastern seaboard are also resuming services.

The president has declared "major disasters" in New York and New Jersey, freeing federal funds aimed at offsetting billions of dollars in East Coast property damage.

With the presidential election now less than one week away, Republican presidential challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, was back on the campaign trail in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday. But he asked supporters do what they can to help the relief efforts.

"People are doing that all over America, gathering their support in any way they can to help the people who have been subjected to this tragedy," Romney said. "And so, please, if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep the people who have been in harm's way, who have been damaged either personally or through their property, keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We love all of our fellow citizens. We come together at times like this."

The storm's impact has even caught the attention of the Vatican. On Wednesday, Pope Benedict spoke about the disaster during prayers.

"Conscious of the devastation caused by the hurricane which recently struck the East Coast of the United States of America, I offer my prayers for the victims, and I express my solidarity with all those engaged in the work of rebuilding,'' he said.

Sandy has killed at least 45 people in North America. The storm hit the New Jersey shore late Monday, causing massive flooding, raging fires and power outages that crippled the New York metropolitan area.

At a briefing Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the superstorm should serve as a warning.

"Part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality. Extreme weather is a reality. It is a reality that we are vulnerable, and if we are going to do our job as elected officials we're going to need to think about how to redesign, or as we go forward, make the modifications necessary so we don't incur this type of damage," said Cuomo.

He added that watching water pour into parts of New York City at the height of the storm was frightening and "looked apocalyptic."

As the storm moves west, it has triggered unseasonably powerful blizzards in the mountains. Forecasters say it is now making its way toward Canada's southern border.

Sandy killed at least 65 people in the Caribbean last week before moving toward the United States.

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