Thousands still stranded without food or electricity


The National Guard has begun to evacuate buildings and deliver food, writes INES NOVACICin New York

TWO DAYS after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, thousands of people along the worst-affected coastal areas remain stranded, without food, water or electricity.

President Barack Obama arrived in New Jersey yesterday afternoon to join Governor Chris Christie in reviewing storm damage and the recovery process.

Air Force One landed in Atlantic City just after 1pm.

“If your homes aren’t too badly damaged we can hopefully get you back in,” the president later told residents at an evacuation shelter in the town of Brigantine.

“The entire country’s been watching. Everyone knows how hard Jersey has been hit.

“We’re not going to tolerate any red tape. We’re not going to tolerate any bureaucracy,” said Obama, who has temporarily suspended campaigning with the presidential election just six days away.

“I’ve been here since early this morning, when only one or two people were walking around,” Andrew Katz, a photojournalist in Atlantic City said.

“Police officers are checking cars coming into town, but people have come out in the dozens wanting to see the president. It’s an interesting scene.”

Katz said damage in the gambling resort was mostly localised, with only one section of the boardwalk broken apart, and nearby tarmac covered in inches of sand.

“I expected to see water, but it’s mostly receded, and although there’s hardly a ‘we’re open’ feel to the place, some corner shops are serving food.”

Other places along New Jersey’s shore haven’t been so lucky.

In the so-called Mile-Square town of Hoboken, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, almost half of the 50,000 residents are stuck indoors or locked out of their homes because of high water levels.

Members of the National Guard began arriving into Hoboken on Tuesday night. City spokesman Juan Melli said that about 10 trucks were delivering food and water, and evacuating homes.

“To me, when you call the National Guard, it’s serious,” said Hoboken resident Maura Hurley, who, like many, left the city as soon as she could.

“At this point people just want it to be over. I sat in my car yesterday for over an hour, because we all knew it’s going to be days until power is back up and the water and sludge are cleared up,” said Hurley.

New Jersey-based meteorologist Gary Szatkowski said that Sandy’s path of destruction didn’t come as a surprise, but the scale of damage sustained was unexpected, since regions like New Jersey aren’t usually directly affected by a storm of that scale.

“What Sandy did was make a left turn and then a beeline for New Jersey, instead of running parallel to the coast, like Irene did,” said Szatkowski, adding: “This storm met our worst expectations, and with coastal flooding warnings, like the ones we were briefing the governor and officials on in the days ahead of Sandy, all you can really do is just get out of there.”

Mandatory evacuation notices were issued in coastal towns by Monday morning, but by then Hoboken’s train station was already flooded.

“We’re one of the only few blocks in our neighbourhood with power,” said Christopher Halleron, who lives in midtown Hoboken.

His Dublin-born wife, Anne Wicheley, added: “We’re so lucky. We have five people staying with us today who have nowhere else to go and can’t get to shelters. Everyone who’s been out there comes back stinking of gasoline. Its still very much crisis mode around here.”