New Jersey: Setting aside political rivalry, US President Barack Obama toured the New Jersey coastline ravaged by superstorm Sandy with its Republican Governor, with the two leaders praising each other for their response to the disaster and assuring all help to the affected residents.
The rare bipartisanship displayed by Obama and Governor Chris Christie, a fierce critic of the President, comes just days ahead of the November 06 Presidential Election.
Obama, who got an aerial view of destroyed houses and beaches in the state known for its casinos and other recreational spots, praised Christie for his recovery efforts, saying the Governor had put his "heart and soul" in making sure the state "bounces back stronger than before”.
"I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and participation," Obama said yesterday.
He assured residents that the government would "not quit" and offered all help in rebuilding the destroyed cities.
Obama, who had suspended his election campaigning in the wake of the storm, said the biggest priority is to restore electricity for the millions of residents and businesses in states like New Jersey and New York, which have been the hardest hit by the storm.
"Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones. My message... Is we are here for you, we will not forget, we will follow up to make sure you get all the help you need till you rebuild," he said. "We are going to be here for the haul."
Obama said the federal government would work with the Christie administration in "getting power turned back on" and his office is looking at the possibility of using federal and military assets from around the country to help put the transport system back on its feet.
"We are going to have a lot of work to do. I do not want anyone to feel that somehow this is going to get cleaned up overnight. We want to make sure people have realistic expectations. What I can promise you is that the federal government will be working as closely as possible with state and local officials and we will not quit until this is done," Obama said.
Earlier speaking at a shelter in the state's Brigantine Beach, Obama said Christie is "working overtime" to bring the situation back to normal as soon as possible.
Christie, who had praised Obama for his leadership in handling the crisis in the aftermath of the storm, thanked the President for visiting the state and surveying the damage.
"We took a whole tour of the coast. He got a chance to see the destruction along the coast of New Jersey... I want to thank the President for coming here today. It's really important to have the President of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that's going on here in New Jersey and I appreciate it very much.”
"We're going to work together to make sure we get ourselves through this crisis and get everything back to normal," Christie said.
The Governor had spoken in support of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at his party's national convention.
At a rally in Virginia last week, Christie had lashed out at the President, saying Obama did not know how to be a leader.
"He's like a man wandering around a dark room, hands up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership, and he just can't find it," Christie had said at the rally. In New Jersey's Hoboken town, National Guard troops were called in to rescue thousands of residents trapped by floodwaters.
The storm, which is estimated to have caused a loss of billions of dollars, resulted in the death of least 59 people, including 24 in New York city.
While the state authorities were working round the clock to restore services, it will be four to five days before the public transport system and power is brought back on its feet.
New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a total of 643,000 customers were without power and restoration would take days.
Residents also had to deal with poor cell phone service as carriers like AT&T and Verizon scrambled to pump water from their systems.
New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport and New York's Kennedy International Airport slowly began to resume operations.
In Manhattan, a leading city hospital Bellevue was forced to evacuate nearly 700 patients after its back-up generators failed.
This was the second hospital after New York University's Langone Medical Centre that had to move its patients to a different facility due to power failure.
The United Nations, which had remained closed for three days, is set to reopen.
Due to the impact of the storm, diplomats at the United Nations had to move to a temporary base for a special meeting yesterday after the Security Council chamber suffered serious water damage.
The New York Stock Exchange also reopened after remaining shut for the first two days of the week.
Bloomberg rang the opening bell at the stock exchange.
The storm also led to incidents of burglary and looting with Queens district attorney Richard Brown announcing that more than a dozen people had been charged with stealing from liquor, clothing and electronic stores.
The states ravaged by the storm have slowly begun to restore essential services and clean up the debris.
While New York's subway system was still not fully operational, Governor Andrew Cuomo said limited subway service would resume shortly, with buses providing remainder services from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Limited service would also be restored to two commuter rail lines for the city's suburbs.
First Published: Thursday, November 01, 2012, 08:12