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Governors warn of long recovery from storms

Residents of New York and New Jersey were told to prepare for a long recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

A sheriff walks on a New Jersey road damaged by Superstorm Sandy on 30 October 2012. Picture: Twitter

NEW YORK - Residents of New York and New Jersey were told on Friday to prepare for a long recovery from Superstorm Sandy, as thousands of people grappled with cleaning up their properties, the extended lack of electricity and gasoline shortages nine days after the storm.

New Yorkers faced gasoline rationing for the first time since the energy crisis of the 1970s, as authorities tried to deal with long lines at gas stations and some commuters continued to struggle to get to and from work.

The White House said President Barack Obama would visit the region next week.

Sandy hammered the U.S. East Coast on October 29, killing at least 120 people and causing an estimated $50 billion (31.4 billion pounds) in damage or economic losses. Then an early season snowstorm pummelled the region on Wednesday, knocking out power to some homes just as they were getting back on the grid.

Rationing on Friday seemed to ease gas lines in New York, just as it did in New Jersey last week, and utilities reported that power was being restored to many homes.

Some 434,000 homes and businesses in the Northeast lacked power as of Friday afternoon, down from 696,000 the previous day, the Energy Department said.

But for coastal communities where thousands of homes were smashed, flooded, filled with sand or burned to the ground, full recovery would take a long time.

"This is not going to be a short journey" for many communities, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference.

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, after touring the Shore, said that many popular vacation spots will not be fully rebuilt by next summer. "This is our Katrina," he declared, referring to the hurricane that washed out New Orleans in 2005.

LONG BEACH ISLAND TO REOPEN

At Sea Bright, New Jersey, where Christie spoke to reporters, the boardwalk was buckled and the pier was "out to sea," he said.

Christie said access to Long Beach Island, a popular summer destination evacuated October 29, would reopen on Saturday morning, giving residents their first chance to view the damage to their homes.

Still, he said he expected power to be restored to 100 percent of his state by Saturday night.

Christie, Cuomo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg all appeared to shift their focus from immediate recovery to long-term rebuilding.

Bloomberg said New York City would work with federal authorities to provide electricians, plumbers and carpenters to people in the worst-hit coastal areas. He said some 40,000 homes in the Rockaways and other neighbourhoods had suffered structural damage or salt water had eroded their electrical circuits and power could not be restored until they were sound.

Bloomberg said the program, to be paid mostly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would be faster than asking individual homeowners to find contractors and would get people back in their homes by the end of the year. "We think we can kick-start this," he said.

In the Long Island town of Oceanside, protesters - many without power - took to the streets chanting, "Where is LIPA? Where is LIPA?" LIPA is the Long Island Power Authority, a state-owned utility.

In the Rockaways, a hard-hit area of Long Island, New York, that faces the ocean, a group of military veterans known as Team Rubicon helped residents shovel sand away from their homes, remove rotted drywall from basements and haul large items to the sidewalk.

At the sidewalk, New York sanitation workers used huge tractors to scoop the debris into dump trucks that hauled it away.

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