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New York governor seeks US$30 billion in aid

NEW YORK -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the U.S. federal government for US$30 billion in aid Monday to help his state recover from the devastation left by Superstorm Sandy.

The requested funds will help rebuild the economy, infrastructure, housing, public buildings and small businesses, Cuomo told reporters in stressing the “cataclysmic” nature of the storm that killed more than 110 people.

“This is an economy that is important not just for the state, this is an economy that is important for the country,” Cuomo said. “The sooner we get the New York economy running, the better for this state and this nation.”

His request comes three days before President Barack Obama tours the areas hit hard by the storm that blasted ashore with hurricane force on Oct. 29, triggering major floods and tidal surges in New York and New Jersey.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg meanwhile announced a US$500 million emergency plan to repair 37 public schools and three public hospitals closed since Sandy.

Despite major progress, tens of thousands of homes and businesses remain without power, and thus unable to heat the buildings during sometimes frigid temperatures in the city and its suburbs.

“Our city has never experienced a storm as destructive as Hurricane Sandy, and financing for these repairs is as necessary as is it urgent,” Bloomberg said, adding that the city could not wait for the release of federal aid funds.

“These school buildings and public hospitals are resources that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers rely on every day ... This emergency capital spending is vital investment in our recovery and future.”

The schools currently closed are attended by about 26,000 students, who were forced to move to other institutions with their teachers.

About 74,300 customers — homes, general buildings and private companies — remained without power, and more than half of those were in areas flooded by the storm, such as Long Island and the Rockaways area of the New York borough of Queens, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) said.

LIPA, harshly criticized for its response to the disaster, insisted that 10,000 people were working around the clock to return power to customers.

But in some cases, installations were too badly damaged to function again and additional repairs and tests were needed.

Flood-ravaged areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island “cannot get electrical service until their own internal equipment is repaired, tested and certified by an electrician as ready for service,” according to utility Con Edison.

Bloomberg has yet to indicate when fuel rationing will end for New York.

In neighboring New Jersey, a similar measure was put in place on Nov. 3, but it was set to be lifted on Tuesday.

“Now it's time to get back to normal & back to work,” New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie said in a Twitter message.

Obama, re-elected last week, interrupted his campaign for four days in the wake of the storm.

Though he did not go to New York, he did visit New Jersey on Oct. 31, touring the wreckage with Christie in what proved to be an unexpectedly welcome photo op for the Democratic president less than a week before polling day.

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Workers remove debris from the basement of a building in New York's Financial District, Monday, Nov. 12. Cleanup continues in New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the destruction of Superstorm Sandy. (AP)

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