Sandy death toll in U.S. rises to 39; Obama urges officials to cut 'red tape' in aid effort
American president announces intention to visit New Jersey, where he will join Governor Christie in viewing the superstorm's damage.
The U.S. government was going to do the best it can to aid parts of the Eastern Seaboard stricken by Hurricane Sunday, American President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, instructing regional leaders to cut through "red tape" in order to provide the necessary emergency resources.
The misery of superstorm Sandy's devastation grew Tuesday as millions along the U.S. East Coast faced life without power or mass transit for days, and huge swaths of New York City remained eerily quiet. The U.S. ¬death toll climbed to 39, many of the victims killed by falling trees, and rescue work continued.
Addressing the storm's destructive effect during a visit to the Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. later in the day, Obama said that the "storm is not yet over," adding: "Obviously this is something that is heartbreaking for the entire nation."
"We're going to continue to push as hard as we can" to provide resources to regions stricken by the storm, the U.S. president said, adding that his message to government officials was: "no bureaucracy. No red tape."
Obama praised the "spirit" and "resilience" of New York City residents, specifically noting workers of a New York hospital "carrying fragile newborns to safety" as well as firefighters bravely wading in water to save lives.
Following his appearance, the White House announced that Obama was expected to "travel to New Jersey where he will join Governor Christie in viewing the storm damage, talking with citizens who are recovering from the storm and thanking first responders who put their lives at risk to protect their communities. Additional scheduling details will be released when they are available."
The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with hurricane force cut power to more than 8.2 million across the East and put the presidential campaign on hold just one week before Election Day.
New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart closed for a second day. The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of the city's subway system, and there was no indication of when the largest U.S.¬ transit system would be rolling again.
This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
But the full extent of the damage in New Jersey was being revealed as morning arrived. Emergency crews fanned out to rescue hundreds.
A hoarse-voiced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave bleak news at a morning news conference: Seaside rail lines washed away. No safe place on the state's barrier islands for him to land. Parts of the coast still under water.
"It is beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he said. "It is a devastating sight right now."
The death toll from Sandy in the U.S .¬included several killed by falling trees. Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.
Airlines canceled more than 12,000 flights. New York City's three major airports remained closed.
Most major tunnels and bridges in New York were closed, as were schools and Broadway theaters.
Around midday, Sandy was about 190 kilometers east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, pushing westward with winds of 72 kph, and was expected to make a turn into New York State on Tuesday night. Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Sandy also brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and neighboring Appalachian states, with more than 2 feet (0.61 meters) of snow expected in some places.
Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.
Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area. He suspended campaigning for a third day Wednesday.