Housing crisis looms as U.S. storm victims battle cold

Sun Nov 4, 2012 10:38pm GMT

By Ilaina Jonas and Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A housing crisis loomed in New York City as victims of superstorm Sandy struggled on Sunday without heat in near-freezing temperatures, and officials fretted displaced residents would not be able to vote in Tuesday's presidential election.

Fuel shortages and power outages lingered nearly a week after one of the worst storms in U.S. history flooded homes in coastal neighbourhoods, leaving many without heat and in need of shelter in New York and New Jersey. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 people in New York City alone would need housing, including around 20,000 from public housing.

"We don't have a lot of empty housing in this city. It's a problem to find housing. We're not going to let anybody go sleeping in the street," Bloomberg said. "But it's a challenge and we're working on this as fast as we can."

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Sunday federal agencies are looking for apartments and hotel rooms for people displaced by Sandy.

"Our goal is to try to get people out of the shelters," Napolitano said at a news conference in New Jersey with Governor Chris Christie.

Overnight, at least two more bodies were found in New Jersey - one dead of hypothermia - as the overall North American death toll from Sandy climbed to at least 111.

"People are in homes that are uninhabitable," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference. "People don't like to leave their home, but the reality is going to be in the temperature."

Concerns are growing that voters displaced by Sandy won't get to polling stations on Tuesday. Scores of voting centres were rendered useless by the record surge of seawater in New York and New Jersey.   Continued...

People salvage food from bags thrown out of a flooded store in the Coney Island area of the Brooklyn borough of New York, November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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