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After Sandy, frustrated drivers queue for fuel
by Staff Writers
Howell, New Jersey (AFP) Nov 1, 2012

One million free meals for New York storm victims
New York, Usa (AFP) Nov 1, 2012 - New York on Thursday started handing out one million meals to poor and elderly people struggling in the dark fallout of superstorm Sandy.

National Guard troops and New York police will also go into the city's high rise apartment blocks to knock on doors and see who needs help, mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The Red Cross said it had deployed 12 mobile kitchens capable of preparing 200,000 meals a day and the government is also setting up a giant operation.

"I am going to join them now in bringing one million meals to New York, one million meals believe it or not," New York state governor Andrew Cuomo told a press conference.

Though New York is slowly getting moving again after the storm hit Monday, the devastation is still widely felt. Many private groups and churches have started handing out aid in the worst affected areas of Manhattan and other boroughs.

Judith Vorreuter's ground floor apartment in the East village was flooded by the storm which turned the East River into a rampaging torrent. The 72-year-old had to be rescued by neighbors.

Her home is now filled with mud. "I lost all my winter clothes which were under the bed, and the books and records. All the food got spoiled."

She is now staying with a friend who has no electricity. "We have problems to get hot food. Everything is closed." Vorreuter like many others has been living off bananas, apples and chocolate since Monday.

But other elderly citizens are not so lucky and one church group has set up a soup kitchen in Tompkins Square, in the heart of the East Village.

Glenn Ferro, a volunteer for the Life Ministries group, said that normally the kitchen is set up every Tuesday in the district.

"Because of the hurricane, there's no power, nobody can cook. So we came yesterday and today. We have 10 gallons of soup and also fruit juice and chocolate. We have clothes, clean new socks. We just stay until everything is gone."

Some of their customers are regulars, but the storm has brought a new wave of people in need. The unemployed, the elderly, and illegal migrants have all become victims.

The East Village has some of the trendiest restaurants and bars in Manhattan but also has a hard core of poverty and the storm has cut it off even more from the rest of New York.

A sub-station which exploded on Monday night is just four blocks away and a district as big as many American cities is now without power.

There is some solidarity however.

Further up 10th Street, someone has put a generator on the street with an extension cord so that people can charge mobile phones and laptops. "No more than 30 minutes each," says a sign with the generator.

Some inhabitants have their pride despite Sandy's ravages however. "I live on the fifth floor in Eighth Street," said Anastasia Lacdo, 86, and originally from Ukraine, who walks with a stick.

"I have no light, nor hot water. But I don't need help. I use the stairs, I do the shopping myself."

Past the downed trees and power lines that litter northern New Jersey's sprawling towns, motorists are spending hours waiting at gas stations where quick refueling stops were once the norm.

In Howell, like many other mid-size US cities, it is virtually impossible to live without a car, and at one Wawa gas station in the city, more than 300 vehicles were lined up, snaking to the edge of a major highway.

Waits averaged at least an hour, but residents said they were determined to fill up, however long it took.

"What can you do? We could stay at home freezing without electricity, or we can sit here in the warm car and get gas to keep the car going," said Liz Bloodgood, in her maroon Mazda with her daughter, Alicia Frye.

Bloodgood said she saw one car speed to the front and cut into the line, but the other motorists banded together and honked down the line-jumper.

The long lines have become a common sight across northern New Jersey and parts of New York.

Stations that lost power or suffered damage have been unable to reopen, and many others simply no longer have any fuel to sell, with demand skyrocketing and fuel trucks often unable to make deliveries.

Mary Goepfert, a spokeswoman at New Jersey's Office of Emergency Management, said the state was suffering "widespread" gas station closures, but could not give an exact number or percentage.

"Part of the issue is that there's a pipeline in northern New Jersey that's affected because of the power outages," she told AFP. "Once the power's up, we'll be in much better shape."

Despite the frustrating waits, most motorists have queued patiently.

Brianne Glennon, 19, said she filled up her Jeep ahead of Sandy but waited an hour and 10 minutes to refill it in Howell on Thursday. She said she had heard stories of people waiting three hours immediately after the storm.

Mike Jones said he had waited three hours on Thursday, after first driving an hour and a half to find an open station. He filled five gallons into his handheld red canister.

"It's not too much fun, and I'm going to have to come back for more. But, hey, it's not like there are too many gas stations open right now, so what are you going to do?" he said.

New Jersey does not allow motorists to fill their cars themselves, instead requiring attendants, a quirk that some people said had made it more difficult for stations to reopen because each station needs a fuller labor force.

At the Wawa station, the credit card machine was also down, forcing customers to use a cash machine on site.

"Some people wait in line for three hours and then they come to find out that they can't use their card -- it's only cash," said motorist Steve Rogers.

But another man named Steve, who drove his Cadillac to the pump and declined to give his surname, said that it was important to keep the long waits in perspective after the killer storm.

"It's a minor inconvenience compared with what some people are going through right now," he said.

In New York City and surrounding areas, residents were experiencing similarly long lines and frustrations, but there was a glimmer of hope for them with news that the New York port was reopening for fuel shipments.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement that reopening the port, which was shut down as Sandy approached, would allow "critical fuel shipments to resume to the region."

"There are a number of factors that are causing gas shortages and massive lines at the pump, but one of the critical ones was simply a lack of supply, and today we're announcing that has been addressed," he said.


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