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FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
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Lights back on in Manhattan 5 days after Sandy
Associated Press
A car passes over the Brooklyn Bridge near the partially-lit skyline of lower Manhattan on November 3, 2012 in New York City. Although electricity has been restored to most of New York City, many areas remain without power five days after Superstorm Sandy. John Moore/Getty Images/AFP
A car passes over the Brooklyn Bridge near the partially-lit skyline of lower Manhattan on November 3, 2012 in New York City. Although electricity has been restored to most of New York City, many areas remain without power five days after Superstorm Sandy. John Moore/Getty Images/AFP
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NEW YORK: The lights are back on in lower Manhattan to the relief of residents who had been plunged into darkness for nearly five days by Superstorm Sandy, but resentment festered Sunday in the city's outer boroughs and suburbs over a lack of power and maddening gas shortages.

Falling temperatures added to the misery of those lacking power, heat or gasoline and Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged older residents without heat to move to shelters, and said 25,000 blankets were being distributed across the city.

"We're New Yorkers and we're going to get through it," the mayor said Saturday. "But I don't want anyone to think we're out of the woods."

Bloomberg also said that resolving gas shortages could take days. Lines snaked around gas stations for many blocks all over the stricken region, including northern New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie imposed rationing that recalled the worst days of fuel shortages in the 1970s.

Ten people were arrested at gas stations in various disputes over line jumping, police said. The police presence where there were gas lines was increased on Saturday. Still, there was one arrest for disorderly conduct at the armory in Brooklyn, where free gasoline was being distributed

Nowhere was the scene more confused than at a refueling station there, where the National Guard gave out free gas - an effort to alleviate the situation. A mass of honking cars, desperate drivers and people on foot, carrying containers from empty bleach bottles to five-gallon (19-liter) Poland Spring water jugs, was just the latest testament to the misery unleashed by Sandy.

"It's chaos, it's pandemonium out here," said Chris Damon, who had been waiting for 3½ hours at the site and had circled the block five times. "It seems like nobody has any answers."

Damon, 42, had already been displaced to Brooklyn from his home in Queens, where he still lacked power, as did millions outside Manhattan - from Staten Island, the hardest-hit borough, to Westchester County and other suburban areas.

Domingo Isasi, waiting in a gas line on Staten Island, minced no words about the divide between Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

"The priorities are showing, simply by the fact that Manhattan got their power back," he said, adding that Staten Islanders are used to being lower on the list. "We're the bastard kids who keep getting slapped in the head and told to shut up," he said.

At a gas giveaway station in Queens, the scene was calmer but not happier. More than 400 cars stretched for more than a dozen blocks, with one tanker filling cars one at a time.

The 5,000-gallon (19,000-liter) trucks from the Defense Department were dispatched to five locations around the New York City metropolitan area.

"Do not panic. I know there is anxiety about fuel," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Hours later, after the long lines formed, New York state officials said the public should stay away from the refueling stations until emergency responders first got their gas and more supplies were made available. National Guard Col. Richard Goldenberg added, however, that those who were already at the distribution sites would not be turned away.

Gas rationing went into effect at noon in 12 counties of northern New Jersey, where police began enforcing rules to allow only motorists with odd-numbered license plates to refuel. Those with even-numbered plates must wait until Sunday.

Jessica Tisdale waited in her Mercedes SUV for 40 minutes at a gas station in Jersey City, but didn't quite understand the system and was ordered to pull away because of her even-numbered plate.

"Is it the number or the letter?" she asked around 12:10 p.m. "I don't think it's fair. I've been in the line since before noon. I don't think it's fair. There's no clarity."

The officer who waved her out of line threw up his hands and shrugged.

In Washington, President Barack Obama visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an update on superstorm recovery efforts and said "there's nothing more important than us getting this right."

He cited the need to restore power; pump out water, particularly from electric substations; ensure that basic needs are addressed; remove debris; and get federal resources in place to help transportation systems come back on line.

About 2.6 million people remained without power in six states after Sandy came ashore Monday night.

About 900,000 people still didn't have electricity in the New York metropolitan area, including about 550,000 on Long Island, Cuomo said. About 80 percent of New York City's subway service has been restored, he added.

The restoration of power beat the sunrise Saturday in the West Village in lower Manhattan, though just barely. Electricity arrived at 4:23 a.m., said Adam Greene, owner of Snack Taverna, a popular eatery.

"This morning, I took a really long hot shower," he said.

Throughout the West Village, people were emerging from their hibernation, happy to regain their footing. Stores started to reopen. Signs at a Whole Foods Market promised that fresh meat and poultry and baked goods would return Sunday.

At O Cafe, a favorite neighborhood coffee shop, owner Fernando Aciar was thrilled when his phone rang just after 5 a.m., while he was still in bed, with news that the power was back. Within an hour, he had summoned staff who lived in Manhattan, and his business was humming.

"People came, craving something hot to finally feel they're home after days of no light, no heat, no food, no nothing," Aciar said.

"This is our neighborhood, and people here don't like going uptown. But they were forced to go," he said.

Julia Strom, 53, a singer and composer, said she had never left her West 10th Street brownstone. She not only survived in candlelight, but spent three full nights taking care of a woman in her 90s whose caregivers could not come into the city. On Saturday, though exhausted, she said tending to the elderly woman had been "a privilege; it heightens and beautifies life."

New York City's parks reopened Saturday, and with Sunday's New York City Marathon canceled, many of the runners who had come to town for the race worked out their frustrations with a jog through Central Park, the site of the finish line that won't be used.

 
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