Flotilla of Gas Barges Bring Relief for Sandy's Gas Pains

Good Morning America

Relief is in sight for increasingly angry victims of Sandy's rampage as a flotilla of ships and barges began unloading gasoline in an effort to reduce long lines of gas-desperate motorists.

"The issue of gasoline has created concern and anxiety and practical problems all throughout the region," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference today. "People can't get gas. It's slowed down the delivery of service, it's increased the stress level all across the region."

Hurricane Sandy: Full Coverage

Some gas stations have fuel in the ground, but are unable to pump it without power. Others have power but have no gas due to shortages and difficulties in transporting the fuel.

At the gas stations that do have power, police have been keeping order at hours-long lines, but the fight for fuel has been getting nasty. Authorities say a motorist was arrested after he tried to cut in line at a gas station in Queens Thursday and allegedly pointed a pistol at another motorist who complained, according to the Associated Press.

The man was identified as Sean Bailey, 35, and he faces charges of menacing and criminal possession of a weapon.

Cuomo said that debris in New York's harbor, much of ship containers blown into the water and lurking below the surface, posed a threat to navigation and caused the U.S. Coast Guard to close the ports until they were confident the vessels could come through without being in danger.

This created a backlog of vessels that were trying to get into the harbor, the governor said. Part of the harbor was re-opened on Thursday.

In addition, Sandy's flooding damaged some pumping equipment used to move the gas.

"We understand why there was a shortage," Cuomo said. "The harbor is now open. There should be a real change in conditions and people should see it quickly."

An executive order waiving the registration and tax requirements for fuel tankers has been approved, which should expedite the process. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Daniel Abel mentioned the possibility of "creative alternatives," like possibly using hoses to unload fuel directly from barges to trucks, if it is safe.

Cuomo also announced that power was expected to be restored to lower Manhattan later today and that the state of New York has pledged $100 million to a fund dedicated to Sandy victims and home repairs.

The governor's announcements produced a glimmer of hope to about 3.6 million people spending a fourth day without power. They woke up today in cold, dark homes as temperatures are forecast to drop into the 30s with a possible Nor'easter on the way.

In addition, the death toll from Sandy's rampage topped 90, according to the AP.

But some parts of the area hammered by Sandy feel they have been left behind in the rush to restore power to Manhattan.

Staten Island was one of the hardest-hit communities in New York City. More than 80,000 residents are still without power, many are homeless, and at least 19 people died there because of the storm.

Four days after the storm, supplies are finally making their way to the borough and Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro is boiling over in anger at what he sees as a slow relief effort.

"This is America, not a third world nation. We need food, we need clothing," Molinaro said.

Staten Island resident Desi Caruso told ABC News said Sandy has destroyed his neighborhood.

"This neighborhood, we are close. We like each other and now all of our lives here are going to separate and we're going to be broken apart," Caruso said.

Photos: Assessing Sandy's Destruction

Caruso, a music producer who has lived in Staten Island for 20 years, plans to move because the risk of another storm causing massive damage is too great.

Some on the New Jersey coastline were hit just as hard as Staten Island residents and they were allowed back into their communities Thursday to get their first look at the devastation.

"That's it. I have nothing. I can't get to my job. I had two cars down there because we thought they'd be safe. They're gone," Marianne Russell, of Moonachie, N.J., told WABC.

"A lot of tears are being shed today," said Dennis Cucci, whose home near the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach was heavily damaged. "It's absolutely mind-boggling."

President Obama held a call with state and local officials from New York, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to discuss the repair effort late Thursday night, according to a White House official.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino will travel to Staten Island today to meet with state and local officials and inspect recovery efforts.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the main concern now is over the elderly and poor all but trapped on upper floors of housing complexes in the powerless buildings.

"Our problem is making sure they know that food is available," Bloomberg said Thursday, as officials expressed concern about people having to haul water from fire hydrants up darkened flights of stairs.

In Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, Mary Wilson, 75, walked downstairs from her 19th floor apartment for the first time Thursday because she ran out of bottled water and felt she was going to faint. She said she met people on the stairs who helped her down.

"I did a lot of praying: 'Help me to get to the main floor.' Now I've got to pray to get to the top," she said, after buying water from a convenience store . "I said, 'I'll go down today or they'll find me dead," she added.

As essentials dwindle in powerless areas, reports of looting have occurred. Early Thursday morning 18 individuals were arrested for burglary of a Key Food in Coney Island, according to police.

In Far Rockaway, Queens, four arrests were made Thursday stemming from the entry of a closed Radio Shack.

ABC News' Alexis Shaw, Jennifer Abbey, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

View Comments (0)