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NEW YORK MAYOR ORDERS FUEL RATIONING ACROSS CITY AMID BEING HIT BY SECOND STORM

The Mayor of New York has ordered fuel rationing based on vehicle registration plates after the city was hit by its second severe storm in just over a week.Michael Bloomberg announced at a news conference that drivers will be

allowed to buy petrol on alternating days based on whether their licence plate ends in odd or even numbers.It comes as heavy snow fell across much of the northeastern US – bringing yet more misery for hundreds of thousands of people still without power since Sandy hit on October 29.”This is not a step that we take lightly,” Mr Bloomberg said. “Only 25% of our gas stations we estimate are open. Frustrations are only growing and it now appears there will be shortages for possibly another couple weeks.” The rationing plan, similar to one implemented in New Jersey last week, began on Friday at 6am local time (11am GMT).Long Island also imposed the rationing system one hour earlier. Police are at petrol stations to enforce the system. Mr Bloomberg did not say when the measure, which does not include emergency vehicles, buses, taxis and certain other vehicles, would end. People with licence plates ending in a letter are eligible to buy fuel on odd-numbered days. Officials hoped the move would cut queues of increasingly desperate drivers at city petrol stations.

The shortage has created a black market where online sellers are offering fuel at more than twice the industry rate. New York City has been hard hit by fuel shortages since Sandy struck due to power cuts and petrol being stranded at refineries. A second coastal storm, known as a nor’easter, struck on Wednesday bringing snow, rain and high winds and further hampering efforts to get the city’s infrastructure back online. More than 110 people died across the US northeast during Sandy, which began as a deadly Caribbean hurricane before driving into New Jersey .In New York City, authorities reported that the number of dead there reached 41 when an elderly man was found dead in his building. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated that Sandy and its aftermath had caused $50bn (£31bn) in damage, with New York state bearing $33bn (£21bn) of that. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun to move several hundred mobile homes into New York and New Jersey for the tens of thousands forced out of their homes.More than half a million people, mostly in New York and New Jersey, were still waiting on Friday morning for their electricity to come back

Death toll in U.S. rises to 113 from Hurricane Sandy: 2.7 million, across 15 states, still without power

Life was returning to normal in parts of New York and New Jersey, five days after Hurricane Sandy hit, but other areas were dark and isolated, authorities said.

About 2.7 million customers in 15 states and the District of Columbia were without power Saturday, with at least some facing perhaps another week before it is restored, CNN reported.

The U.S. death toll from Hurricane Sandy rose Saturday, reaching 113, the Los Angeles Times reported, up from 97 Friday. The newspaper said 48 of the deaths were in New York, followed by New Jersey with 24, Pennsylvania 14, Maryland 11, West Virginia seven and Connecticut four, North Carolina two, Virginia two and New Hampshire one.

Residents of many beach towns on the South Shore of Long Island were waiting for power to be restored, and even for some sign someone was in charge, The New York Times reported. Vikki Quinn’s house in Long Beach was flooded and her possessions were piled in the yard.

“I just keep waiting for someone with a megaphone and a car to just tell us what to do,” she told the Times. “I’m lost.”

President Barack Obama convened a meeting of top emergency officials in Washington, with Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut joining by telephone.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters members of the Cabinet reported on their meetings with local officials, first responders and citizens, and the president spoke individually during the meeting with the governors and local officials, asking whether there are “additional federal resources that could be brought to bear to meet some of the needs in their communities.”

Earnest said the president also got a briefing from the National Weather Service on a storm forecast to reach the U.S. Northeast Wednesday. Forecasters said the system could come with high winds, substantial rainfall and perhaps cooler temperatures.

Lights were back on Saturday in most of Manhattan. Subway trains began running between Manhattan and the Long Island boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens for the first time since the storm flooded the tunnels under the East River, the Times said.

Cuomo said about 60 percent of those in New York who lost power had it back by Saturday. On Long Island, however, more than half of the 1.2 million homes and businesses affected by the storm were still in the dark.

“We are getting through it,” Cuomo said at a news briefing. “The worst is behind us.”

Gas remained in short supply. Cuomo said 8 million gallons had been delivered, with 28 million more expected from commercial sources and 12 million from the Defense Department.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other top officials were to visit some of the worst-hit areas.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday announced the opening of the first of several disaster assistance service centers that will provide information about applying for emergency social and economic benefits. All of the centers will be operated by the city’s Human Resources Administration in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will be open seven days a week.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 98,000 people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut had registered for federal assistance and more than $40 million in aid has been approved, a statement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

New York City inspectors are posting color-coded placards on buildings and homes to warn people not to enter some buildings.

“Let me just reiterate what a red placard means: It is not a demolition order; if you read carefully what’s written on it, it says it’s not a demolition order. It is an order not to enter for your safety,” Bloomberg said.

“A yellow placard requires you to have a safety inspection before entering. And I also want to emphasize that’s just because water may be out of the basement doesn’t mean that it’s safe to turn on electricity, or a boiler, or a generator to power your home. It really is a significant fire risk to do so.

“One of the things that struck me was people kept thinking that if a generator miraculously showed up in the neighborhood all would be OK. That’s just not the case. When all of the wiring is covered with water, salt water in particular, you have to do a lot of work before you can re-energize those lines. And so we’ve already seen some cases where when electricity was turned on there were fires and we lost some other houses. We want to make sure that does not happen.”

The number of residences and businesses without power as of Friday night was 95,000 in Manhattan; 26,000 in the Bronx; 34,000 in Brooklyn; 84,000 in Queens and 48,000 in Staten Island, the New York Daily News reported.

“Two networks in Lower Manhattan will take a little longer to bring back online,” Bloomberg said. “However, even with crews working around the clock, it’s going to take a lot longer to bring power back to areas that are served by overhead power lines — and that includes the Long Island Power Authority‘s more than 30,000 customers on the Rockaways.”

In New Jersey, Christie allowed Atlantic City casinos to reopen Friday. Some did, and others said they would open during the weekend.

New Jersey Transit began running trains on the Northeast Corridor between Trenton and New York and said most buses were running again by Saturday morning. Other rail lines remained shut down.

New York City has 13 food distribution sites opened, staffed by National Guard members, New York City Service volunteers and by the staff of the Salvation Army. Since Thursday, they distributed about 290,000 meals and nearly a half-million bottles of water, Bloomberg said.

“Goldman Sachs, through its urban investment group, will match the $5 million New York City is providing in funding for small businesses affected by the hurricane,” Bloomberg said. “These funds will be loaned to businesses in Zone A and other areas where there have been power outages and severe flooding.

Businesses had contributed more than $33 million in donations to Sandy relief as of early Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civil Leadership Center told CNNMoney.

Aftermath of Sandy Update

With at least 50 people dead, transit crippled in New York City and millions of people along the U.S. East Coast struggling without electricity, communities face a daunting challenge of repairing the damage wrought by super-storm Sandy. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg surveyed the destruction in the hardest-hit neighborhoods Tuesday. He said he saw homes so utterly destroyed only “chimneys and foundations” were visible. But despite the daunting challenge of recovery efforts, Bloomberg said “New Yorkers are resilient.” About a third of New York’s fleet of taxis were operating Tuesday, bus service was partially restored, and the New York Stock Exchange was expected to reopen Wednesday. U.S. President Barack Obama declared New York and Long Island a “major” disaster area. The declaration means federal funding is now available to residents of the hardest-hit areas, who awoke to a tragic aftermath of the deadly storm that slammed ashore in New Jersey on Monday evening. New York had seen a four-meter surge of seawater crash ashore overnight, inundating the city’s tunnels and electrical systems and causing massive damage to the city’s famed subway. The storm left New York with no running trains, a vacated business district and entire neighborhoods under water. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the subway system, which remains closed, had suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history. As of midday Tuesday, Sandy’s sustained winds were already diminishing from the 130 km/h it was packing at landfall near Atlantic City, N.J. on Monday evening. But forecasters warn the storm system will continue to affect a region stretching from the U.S. eastern seaboard north to Canada, and as far west as Wisconsin and Illinois, as it churns across Pennsylvania before veering into western New York state sometime Wednesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave a bleak update at a morning news conference Tuesday, saying seaside rail lines were washed away, and there was no safe place on the state’s barrier islands for him as large parts of the coast are still under water.

“We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can,” Christie said. “The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point.” The effects aren’t contained to America’s largest city. More than 7.4 million homes and businesses in an area that stretches from the Carolinas in the south to Ohio in the northeast are without power Tuesday. Tens of thousands were also without electricity in southern parts of Ontario and Quebec too, as Sandy carries its combination of rain and wind northwards. In Canada, a Toronto woman was killed Monday evening after she was struck by a falling sign blown down in the powerful storm’s high winds. Most of the Sandy-related wind warnings issued by Environment Canada have been called off however, except for the Sarnia region, areas along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Inverness County in Nova Scotia. The storm was officially downgraded from hurricane status, but it came ashore packing a lot of energy due to its unusually low barometric pressure. Combined with a cold-weather system from the north, and the high tide of the full moon, the storm is forecast to continue wreaking havoc across a 1,300-kilometre region that’s home to 50 million people through Wednesday. Sandy may cost the U.S. more than $20 billion in damage.

West Virginia crippled by massive snow storm

Parts of West Virginia were digging out from up to three feet of snow dumped in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a deluge that cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents and shut down main highways. The thick blanket of snow at higher elevations across the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, including in parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania, also brought concerns that rivers and creeks in low-lying areas could flood later in the week as the snow melts, with temperatures expected to reach 60 degrees. Falling trees and storm-related traffic accidents claimed the lives of three people in Maryland, three in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia, state officials said Tuesday. Close to 300,000 West Virginia residents were without power Tuesday afternoon, as high winds and heavy snow snapped branches and downed power lines, and officials expected the number to rise. Outages at several utilities had left some areas without access to water, and officials were sending out trucks to deliver bottled water. “West Virginia continues to be hard hit,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat. “Right now, my main focus is on life safety, power restoration and critical infrastructure.…We are doing everything we can to help the folks in need.”

More than 30 of West Virginia’s 55 counties had snow, with the heaviest snowfall at higher elevations, said Liz Sommerville, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Charleston, W.Va. Bowden, above 3,000 feet, recorded 24 inches by early Tuesday, compared with 16 inches in Beckley, elevation 2,300 feet, and 9 inches in the capital of Charleston, elevation 980 feet. “Trees are coming down. I got a feeling that a lot of weaker structures are going to come down,” said Gary Berti, of Davis, W.Va., where 30 inches of snow had fallen by Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Berti, 54 years old, said all the stores along the main street of Davis were closed Tuesday and only pickup trucks with four-wheel drive were braving secondary roads. Restaurants without power were making food for rescue workers using gas stoves, he said: “They’re cooking everything they’ve got because they know they’re going to lose it.” Snow was expected to keep falling on mountainous areas through Wednesday, and blizzard warnings remained in effect in more than a dozen counties Tuesday. At lower elevations, snow was expected to turn to rain by Tuesday night. The West Virginia Department of Transportation reported accidents on three major highways in the state and said fallen trees and power lines were complicating efforts to clear roads. The agency urged residents to stay home. Marshall University canceled classes at various campuses around the state, and West Virginia State University closed for the day.

Tens of thousands flee as storm hits south India

indiaMore than 100,000 people were Evacuated from their homes Wednesday as a Tropical Storm hit southern India from the Bay of Bengal, officials said.Rain lashed the region and strong winds uprooted trees in some places. Weather officials said the storm packed winds of up to 60 miles per hour as it made landfall near Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.A storm surge of up to 5 feet was expected to flood low-lying areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states, the India Meteorological Department said.It said it expected heavy to very heavy rainfall over parts of the states during the next 24 hours. Fishermen were asked to stay at shore until Thursday.State authorities turned 282 schools into relief centers in Chennai. The city’s port halted cargo operations, but berthing of ships was continuing, the Press Trust of India news agency said. Twenty-three ships were moved to safer areas.About 150,000 people were moved to shelters in Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh state, district official B. Sridhar said.In Sri Lanka, authorities said two people were killed and thousands displaced due to heavy rain and strong winds from the storm.Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center said 4,627 people across the island nation had been displaced because of flooding, while 56 were evacuated in the central region due to threats of landslides. One woman died Tuesday after a tree branch fell on her, while another person was killed in flooding, the agency said. Floods have also damaged about 1,000 houses, it said.