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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
New York authorities probe Sandy price gouging
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Nov 16, 2012


US jobless claims soar after Superstorm Sandy
Washington (AFP) Nov 15, 2012 - US weekly jobless claims jumped by 78,000 in one week in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which both interrupted reporting and forced people out of work in the northeast, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

New claims for unemployment insurance, a signal of the pace of layoffs, rose to 439,000 in the week to November 10 from the previous week's figure of 361,000.

"Several states have experienced large increases of initial claims as a result of Hurricane Sandy," a Labor Department official said of the sharp rise.

Sandy blasted the northeastern coast of the United States at the end of October and beginning of November, shutting down major cities, leaving millions without power for days, and wrecking homes and businesses in many communities.

The weekly figure was far above the 360,000-380,000 range for claims of the past year, and pulled the four-week moving average higher, to 383,850.

Obama praises 'tough' New York after storm
New York (AFP) Nov 15, 2012 - US President Barack Obama praised New York's toughness on a visit Thursday to neighborhoods worst-hit by superstorm Sandy and appointed an official to coordinate the rebuilding effort.

"I'm very proud of you New York. You guys are tough. You bounce back," he said in a speech during a visit to Staten Island, where 23 of the Big Apple's 43 dead, as a result of hurricane-strength Sandy, perished.

Obama, who used his Marine One helicopter to get a look at the Rockaways and Breezy Point neighborhoods, which saw particularly heavy flooding during Sandy, said the city clearly had "some longterm rebuilding" to do.

He named his housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, as the pointman on federal assistance in the storm's aftermath and vowed to return "to make sure" that his administration had "followed through" on rebuilding commitments.

"There's still a lot of clean-up to do. People still need emergency help. They still need heat. They still need power. They still need food. They still need shelter. Kids are still trying to figure out where they're going to school," Obama said.

"And we are going to make sure that we stay here as long as people need that immediate help."

Pockets of Staten Island and other coastal fringes of New York remain without heat and light 17 days after Sandy hit, bringing devastating floods.

Visiting a federal aid center in Staten island, Obama was met with yells from a crowd of about 100 people.

One young woman who was at the center to get basic supplies said her house had been on the beach but was now "gone."

"We need help. He should of been here a long time ago," she said after talking with the president.

Another local said after meeting Obama that he'd lost "everything," including his job.

Obama could be seen hugging some of the New Yorkers and consoling them. He also praised clean-up crews that had come from Texas, West Virginia and other states to help. "We're proud of you guys," he said.

Obama was joined by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and city Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among other officials.

As anger mounted around New York against utility companies that have yet to restore full power, Obama called out "the insurance companies and some of the other private sector folks."

"We need you to show some heart and some spirit and help us rebuild as well," he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama "made clear that restoring power is an absolute priority, and he continues to make that clear."

Carney said the White House had put forward $1.5 billion for recovery efforts, including $600 million already approved for direct assistance.

New York State's attorney general on Friday announced action against gasoline stations that allegedly gouged prices during the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, when fuel shortages reached crisis proportions.

"Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging and we are taking action to send a message that ripping off New Yorkers is against the law," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

"Today's action is the first in a series of steps my office will take as we continue to actively investigate the hundreds of complaints we've received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy."

He issued a list of 13 gas station operators facing legal action.

The law prohibits setting an "unconscionably excessive price" during an "abnormal disruption of the market" and covers food, fuel and hardware merchants, as well as taxi drivers.

Damage to infrastructure by flooding during Sandy, which struck New Jersey and New York on October 29, led to days of severe fuel shortages. Long lines formed at petrol pumps and both states instituted temporary rationing in the worst-hit areas.

New York doctors protest post-Sandy troubles
New York (AFP) Nov 16, 2012 - A group of doctors and nurses protested outside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office Friday to ask for more help in rebuilding the city's healthcare system in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

About 30 health workers gathered outside City Hall to bring attention to what they said were the lack of resources in areas where hospitals, clinics and pharmacies were closed because of flooding.

"I have one message to the mayor: we need you to do everything in your power to get our healthcare infrastructure up and running again. You aren't doing enough," nurse Mary Fitzgerald, from the Montefiore Medical Center, said.

Emergency room doctor Marisa Fernandez, who has been volunteering in the badly damaged Rockaways neighborhood, said, "We're having to recreate an entire healthcare infrastructure from scratch -- everything ranging from assessment and triage of newly housebound individuals, to mobile clinics."

"We need the mayor's office to step in and provide clinics that are up to standard with the rest of the nation, and help us continue our work to rebuild the healthcare infrastructure on the Rockaways," Fernandez said.

Another medic said that closed facilities like the Coney Island Hospital, due for reopening only in January, needed to come back on line more quickly.

"The city needs to make this their number one priority: getting the local clinics and hospitals back open and at full capacity to be able to provide care for their communities," the medic, Shawn Westfahl, said.

Three hospitals were closed during hurricane-strength Sandy, with NYU Langone being evacuated in the middle of the storm. The protesting medical staff said there was currently no level one trauma center left operating in the lower half of Manhattan.

Several groups, including the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 37,000 members, organized the rally.

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