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Cold and Dark: Gas Shortages Still Plague Sandy Survivors
'It feels a lot like being in the field in a foreign country'
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday said Hurricane Sandy may have caused $33 billion in damage to his state, but for hundreds of thousands still without power, tallying costs was less of a concern than the cold and dark—and gas shortages they endured as Wednesday's noreaster descended on the area.
Early Friday more than 220,000 were without power in the New York area, the Associated Press reported, with about 250,000 in the dark in New Jersey.
On Thursday, Cuomo called for an investigation into why utiities were unprepared and badly managed, according to the AP.
"It's unacceptable the longer it goes on because the longer it goes on, people's suffering is worse," he said.
But others, including Gov. Michael Bloomberg, praised the city's power company, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sai he hoped his entire state would have power by Sunday.
Adding to residents' frustration, both states were under orders for gasoline rationing due to a shortage from Sandy.
Cuomo said only a quarter of the city's gas stations were open, some because they lacked power and others because they couldn't get fuel from terminals and storage tanks.
Reminiscent of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, on Thursday the Federal Emergency Management Agency had nearly 100 mobile housing units headed to the area, although FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said the trailers were not those used post-Katrina, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger.
FEMA said 56,000 people, so far, have been deemed eligible for housing assistance—48,000 of them in New Jersey, but others will be placed in motels or apartments.
But not even Hurricane Katrina brought the relief agency Doctors Without Borders to assist with healthcare. In the New York and New Jersey area, however, post-Sandy conditions led the organization to set up its first-ever medical clinics in the United States—clinics much like those found in developing countries such as Kenya.
"A lot of us have said it feels a lot like being in the field in a foreign country," Manhattan doctor Lucy Doyle told Reuters. "I don't think any of us expected to see this level of lacking access to healthcare.
Among the most at-risk, physicians said, are those living in high-rises in the Rockaways.
In one squalid building on the ocean's edge that has been without power and heat for 11 days, the stairwell reeked of vomit and urine. And yet a steady stream or residents made the trek, some joking that at least they were getting exercise.
"Every night we spend in the dark, somebody's life is at risk," Rejelio Arnold, 25, said. Arnold, who has spent the last week delivering water and other essentials to his sick and elderly neighbors on higher floors, added, "Mostly it's just food and water and candles that people are trying to get."