Scope of Sandy destruction widens
From New York City's Staten Island to the popular beach towns of the Jersey Shore, rescuers and officials today faced growing evidence of widespread destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy, mounting anger over delayed relief and a rising death toll.
The total killed in one of the biggest storms to hit the United States jumped by a third yesterday alone, to 98. In New York City, 40 people have been found dead, half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water on Monday.
Among the dead in Staten Island were two brothers, aged two and four, who were swept from their mother's arms after her car stalled in rising flood waters. Their bodies were found near each other in a marshy area yesterday.
US secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) deputy administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island today amid angry claims by some survivors that the borough had been ignored.
Scenes of angry storm victims could complicate matters for politicians, from President Barack Obama just four days before the general election, to governors and mayors in the most heavily populated region in the US. Mr Obama visited New Jersey on Wednesday and has received praise for his handling of Sandy.
"They forgot about us," said Theresa Connor (42), describing her Staten Island neighbourhood as having been "annihilated".
"And [mayor Michael] Bloomberg said New York is fine. The marathon is on!"
Fury has been escalating throughout New York at Mr Bloomberg's decision to proceed with the world's largest marathon on Sunday, vowing the event - which attracts more than 40,000 runners - would not divert any resources storm victims.
"If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream," New York City councilman James Oddo said on his Twitter account. "We have people with no homes and no hope right now." Staten Island, which lies across New York Harbour from lower Manhattan, is home to about 500,000 people, many blue-collar workers whose families have lived there for generations.
In New Jersey, entire neighbourhoods in oceanside towns were swallowed by seawater and the Atlantic City boardwalk was destroyed. At least 13 people were killed in New Jersey and the toll was not only financial, but heavily emotional as well.
"There's nothing more precious to people than their homes. Those are where their families are, their memories and possessions of their lives, and there's also a sense of safety to home," New Jersey governor Chris Christie said yesterday.
"That sense of safety was violated with water rushing into people's homes at an enormous rate of speed and people having to literally swim, climb, jump for their lives," he said.
The financial cost of the storm promised to be staggering. Disaster modelling company Eqecat estimated Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses, double its previous forecast.
At the high end of the range, Sandy would rank as the fourth costliest US catastrophe ever, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the September 11th, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
About 4.5 million homes and businesses in 15 US states were still without power, down from a record high of nearly 8.5 million.