Power returns to lower Manhattan
The lower Manhattan skyline lit up early this morning for the first time since superstorm Sandy slammed into the US northeast but thousands of storm victims in New Jersey and elsewhere remain in the dark and awaiting disaster relief.
The power restoration came as gasoline supplies headed to coastal zones devastated by the record storm surge and to motorists whose patience has been tested by fuel rationing during the painstaking effort to rebuild.
With the US presidential election just three days away, about 3 million homes and business remained without power in a region choked with storm debris and long gas lines reminiscent of the 1970s-era US fuel shortage. Angry storm victims wondered when their lives would return to normal.
President Barack Obama won early praise for the federal response to Sandy, which hammered the US northeast coast on Monday with 130kmh winds and a record surge of seawater that swamped homes in New Jersey and flooded streets and subway tunnels in New York City.
But continued television and newspaper images of upset storm victims could hurt the Democrat, who is locked in a virtual draw with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The US death toll hit 102 yesterday, after Sandy killed 69 people as a hurricane in the Caribbean. It struck the New Jersey coast on Monday as a rare hybrid after the hurricane merged with a powerful storm system in the north Atlantic.
Power utility Consolidated Edison, battling what it called the worst natural disaster in the company's 180-year history, restored electricity to neighbourhoods such as Wall Street, Chinatown and Greenwich Village in the pre-dawn hours, leaving 11,000 customers in Manhattan without service.
"There's enough light and activity to get a lot of people on the street and get rid of that movie set look as if were in some kind of ghost town or horror movie," Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee told NY1 television.
In New Jersey, the utility PSE&G said 612,000 customers were still without lights after power to 1 million had been restored.
Con Ed said it had restored power to 70 per cent of the 916,000 customers in the New York City area who were cut off. The company was still busy assisting tens of thousands more without power in New York City's outer boroughs, where some people complained of being ignored.
"We have nobody down here with video coverage," said Grace Lane, a grandmother who defied evacuation orders and rode out the storm in her second-story bedroom as water rushed through the first floor of her house.
Eight people - Lane, her husband, their two daughters, their husbands and her two grandchildren - were sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of the upstairs bedroom, the last usable room in the house.
"At least my children are OK," she said.
Many houses were gutted by 1.5 metres of floodwater that raced through Broad Channel, where residents hauled broken furniture and soggy belongings out of their homes on Friday.
In a sign of security worries in the neighbourhood, one garage full of debris stood open with a sign next to it reading: "LOOTERS WILL BE CRUCIFIED - GOD HELP YOU."