Scope of Sandy damage widens, death toll spirals
, November 2, 2012
From New York City's Staten Island to the popular beach towns of the Jersey Shore, rescuers and officials on Friday 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 on Thursday 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 2 and 4, 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 on Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island on Friday 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 United States. 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 neighborhood 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 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 Harbor from lower Manhattan, is home to about 500,000 residents, many blue-collar workers whose families have lived there for generations.
In New Jersey, entire neighborhoods 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 late on Thursday.
"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 modeling 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 U.S. catastrophe ever, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
About 4.5 million homes and businesses in 15 U.S. states were still without power, down from a record high of nearly 8.5 million.
In blacked-out New York City neighborhoods, some residents complained about a lack of police and expressed fears about an increase in crime. Some were also concerned about traffic safety. Ne w York police officials were not immediately available to comment.
"People feel safe during the day but as soon as the sun sets, people are extremely scared. The fact that Guardian Angels are on the streets trying to restore law just shows how out of control the situation is in lower Manhattan," said Wolfgang Ban, a restaurant owner in Manhattan's Alphabet City neighborhood.
The Guardian Angels are a group of anti-crime volunteers. – Reuters