BRIGANTINE, New Jersey, Nov 1 – President Barack Obama toured New Jersey’s devastated coastline on Wednesday, vowing to stay with flood victims “for the long haul” as the US toll from superstorm Sandy passed 60.
New York slowly got back on its feet. The stock exchanges and John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports reopened. But more than six million homes and businesses, the majority of them in New York state and neighboring New Jersey, remained without power.
The true extent of one of the largest and most destructive storms ever to strike the United States became clearer — entire coastal communities in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey are submerged or cut off by floodwaters.
US media reports said 63 Americans had been confirmed dead across 15 storm-ravaged states, bringing Sandy’s overall toll to 135 including Canada and the Caribbean, where Haiti and Cuba were hit particularly hard.
Just six days before America goes to the polls, with his re-election chances hanging in the balance, Obama surveyed the damage in New Jersey, where a massive relief operation had swung into gear with tens of thousands of homes under water.
Taking a third day off the campaign trail to manage the response to the disaster despite Tuesday’s looming election, Obama, accompanied by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, offered a show of strength and support to victims.
“You guys are in my thoughts and prayers. We are going to be here for the long haul,” he told a group of evacuees at a makeshift shelter after listening to stories of loss and survival.
Obama and Christie clambered aboard the president’s Marine One helicopter to fly over New Jersey’s Atlantic coast — over houses tipped off their foundations, streets inundated with sand, and still flooded neighborhoods.
In the community of Seaside Heights, Obama saw the twisted iron of an amusement park which took a heavy hit from the storm, and a nearby pier that was ripped apart.
Although the main focus was on New Jersey and New York, particularly lower Manhattan and Long Island, Obama said he was also concerned about Connecticut and West Virginia, where heavy snows had made certain areas inaccessible.
“We are here for you. And we will not forget. We will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you’ve rebuilt,” he said, adding: “we will not quit until this is done.”