Obama pledges help for storm victims

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IOL pic nov16 barack obama sandy tour Reuters United States President Barack Obama (centre) greets residents affected by superstorm Sandy at a Staten Island FEMA disaster recovery centre in New York.

New York - President Barack Obama got a firsthand look on Thursday at the devastation that superstorm Sandy waged on New York City, flying in a helicopter above flood-ravaged and burned-out sections along the Atlantic that had scattered debris and roofless homes.

Obama also was meeting with affected families, local officials and first responders who have been dealing with the deadly storm, which slammed into New York, New Jersey and other East Coast states last month, killing more than 100 people and leaving millions without power.

Obama had offered to visit the country's largest city shortly after the storm, but was pointed toward neighbouring New Jersey instead.

Obama's visit includes an aerial tour of storm damage with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

“The storm passes and sometimes attention turns elsewhere,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters travelling with the president aboard Air Force One. “But the fact is, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Cuomo said earlier this week he plans to request $30-billion in federal aid to rebuild.

Obama travelled to New Jersey on October 31 to meet with Governor Chris Christie and view recovery efforts in coastal communities. The president viewed flattened houses, flooded neighbourhoods, sand-strewn streets and a still-burning fire along the state's battered coastline.

Obama pledged to those affected by the storm that “we are here for you, and we will not forget”.

Thousands of people in the New York region remained without power on Thursday, especially in New York City's low-income public housing complexes, where some elderly and infirm people find it hard or impossible to leave their homes. - Sapa-AP

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