U.S. President Barack Obama toured the storm-battered New Jersey coast Wednesday, telling devastated residents the federal government will support them "for the long haul."
Accompanied by state Governor Chris Christie, Mr. Obama sought to reassure millions of residents in New Jersey and the rest of the greater New York metropolitan area. He said "our hearts go out to the families that have lost loved ones," and promised that "we will follow up to get all the help you need to rebuild."
The president also said utility companies from as far away as California have pledged help. He said he has ordered military transport planes to move equipment and crews to the area from other regions of the country as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, New York's Bellevue Hospital Center, operating on unstable emergency power, evacuated several hundred patients Wednesday. Hours earlier, New York University's Langone Medical Center also began evacuations when backup generators at that facility failed as well.
Nearby, National Guard troops moved on Wednesday to rescue thousands of residents of Hoboken, New Jersey still trapped by toxic floodwaters in the city on the Hudson river.
With the presidential election less than a week away, Republican challenger Mitt Romney - campaigning in Florida - asked supporters do what they can to help the relief efforts.
"People ...all over America [are] gathering their support in any way they can to help the people who have been subjected to this tragedy. And so, please, if you have an extra dollar or two send them along and keep the people who have been in harm's way... in your thoughts and prayers . We come together at times like this," said Romney.
Tens of millions of people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut on Wednesday viewed scenes of mass devastation never before seen in the heavily populated region. New Jersey firefighters and other rescue personnel remained hampered by tons of floating debris as they tried to battle a series of natural gas fires in the barrier island town of Mantoloking, where several homes burned to the ground two days ago.
Not far away, in New York City, people did their best to get back to work.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street to ring the opening bell. It is the first time traders have returned to work since Hurricane Sandy walloped the region, flooding parts of the city's famed subway system.
Officials say it will likely be several more days before the subways are operating again. But two of New York's three airports are beginning limited service, while the third - LaGuardia Airport - remains closed because of flood damage.
Airports, railroads, and local public transit in other cities along the Eastern Seaboard are also resuming services.
The storm's impact has even caught the attention of the Vatican, where Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers and condolences to victims of the disaster.
Sandy has killed at least 45 people in North America, and another 65 people in the Caribbean last week before targeting the United States.
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