Sandys Death Toll Still Rising

Storm deaths still rising in Sandy aftermath

 IMAGE: People wait in line to fill containers with gasoline.

AP Photo: Mel Evans. IMAGE: People wait in line to fill containers with gasoline.
The East Coast is dealing with everything from inconveniences to tragedy after superstorm Sandy, including a heated debate which ultimately led to the cancellation of the New York City Marathon. 

NEW YORK — The region hit by Superstorm Sandy was a patchwork of returning normality and despair, as New York City’s mayor warned that more bodies could be found but more communities were recovering power, gas and other basic needs. The total U.S. damage from the storm could run as high as $50 billion.

The death toll was above 100 across 10 U.S. states. The bodies of two young boys who had been torn from their mother’s arms in the storm surge were recovered Thursday from a marsh in New York City’s Staten Island, where at least 19 people were killed — near half of the city’s death toll — and some garbage-piled streets remained flooded.

James Molinaro, the borough’s president, said the American Red Cross “is nowhere to be found.”

The island was the starting point of the New York City Marathon, the world’s largest, which the city has just announced would be canceled. The race attracts more than 40,000 participants, with about 20,000 of them from overseas and paying hundreds of dollars to join.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was blasted for the initial decision to go through with the marathon. The debate grew as residents and even undecided marathon runners debated whether resources like police officers and water should be used on the race.
With people in storm-ravaged areas still shivering without electricity and the death toll in New York City at more than 40, many New Yorkers recoiled at the prospect of police officers being assigned to protect a marathon on Sunday.

“It is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division,” Bloomberg said. “The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination.

Across the New York and New Jersey region at the heart of the natural disaster, the vast transport systems lurched to life, but tempers were short in long lines for gas. In New York, a man was accused of pulling a gun Thursday on a motorist who complained when he cut in line at a gas station; no one was injured. The opening of the ports promised to relieve fuel shortages.

In Brooklyn, one line for gas snaked at least 10 blocks through narrow and busy streets. Some commuters accidentally found themselves in the line, and people got out of their cars to yell at them.

Cabdriver Harum Prince was in a Manhattan gas line 17 blocks long. “I don’t blame anybody,” he said. “God, he knows why he brought this storm.”

More subway and rail lines were expected to open Friday, including Amtrak’s New York to Boston route on the Northeast Corridor. In West Virginia helicopters checked mountainous rural areas for people who may still be cut off by heavy snow.

More than 3.8 million homes and business in the East were still without power, down from a peak of 8.5 million.

Officials said power would return over the weekend to downtown Manhattan, where community groups began an effort to go door to door to check on the elderly and others who may not have been able to leave their homes for a fourth day because of pitch-black hallways and many flights of stairs.

“It’s too much. You’re in your house. You’re freezing,” said Geraldine Giordano, 82, a lifelong resident. Near her home, city employees had set up a sink where residents could get fresh water, if they needed it. There were few takers. “Nobody wants to drink that water,” Giordano said.

Along the devastated Jersey Shore, residents were allowed back in their neighborhoods Thursday for the first time since Superstorm Sandy made landfall Monday night. Many homes were wiped out. “A lot of tears are being shed today,” said Dennis Cucci, whose home near the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach sustained heavy damage. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling.”

After touring a flood-ravaged area of northeastern New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said it was time to act, not mourn. On Friday, he said Atlantic City’s 12 casinos can reopen immediately. The casinos were ordered closed Sunday.

But in Staten Island, basic recovery continued. Police recounted one mother’s fruitless struggle to save her children.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said 39-year-old Glenda Moore “was totally, completely distraught” after her SUV stalled in the rising tide and she lost her grip on her sons as they tried to escape. In a panic, she climbed fences and went door-to-door looking in vain for help in a neighborhood that was presumably largely abandoned in the face of the storm.

She eventually gave up, spending the night trying to shield herself from the storm on the front porch of an empty home.

“Terrible, absolutely terrible,” Kelly said.