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Protests in US over slow power restoration

Frustrated residents express anger outside Long Island utility over electricity outages caused by the storm Sandy.
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2012 03:41
Most service is expected to be restored by the end of the weekend in the New York-New Jersey area [AFP]

Hundreds of Americans have protested outside a Long Island utility, frustrated by its slow response to outages, even as the lights came for many who lost power in New York and New Jersey during the storm Sandy and a later nor'easter storm.

Power restoration has been slower there than in other areas hit by Sandy, prompting criticism of the Long Island Power Authority.

Some of the 130,000 blacked out homes and businesses the utility serves may not have power restored until the end of Tuesday, LIPA said on Saturday.

In the rest of the region hardest hit by the storm, most service was expected to be restored by the end of the weekend, though that does not include tens of thousands of homes too damaged to regain power.

He was among about 300 people staging a rally in front of LIPA's office in Hicksville, New York.

Not all were without power, but some who have power said they were there to protest LIPA's lack of communication.

Michael Hervey, LIPA chief operating officer, said they were aware customers have not got the information they have needed from the utility, partly because of an outdated information technology system they are in the process of updating.

"I certainly feel the frustration of customers whose power remains out. Our hearts go out to them," Hervey said.

But he said workers are repairing unprecedented storm damage as fast as they can. About 6,400 linemen and 3,700 tree trimmers are at work, compared with 200 linemen on a normal day.

Investigation urged

In Suffolk County, where about 28,000 remain without power, Steven Bellone, county executive, announced he was cutting ties with LIPA and would deal directly with substation co-ordinators.

Hervey said he would not comment on that directly, but added that an ad hoc takeover of the system would lead to anarchy.

"The utility is the best suited to restore power and manage that," he said. "We can't have people step in and take over."

However, Andrew Cuomo, New York governor, has called for investigation of the region's utilities, criticising them as unprepared and badly managed.

On Friday, two congressmen from Long Island called for the federal government to help LIPA restore electricity.

"It's a totally disorganised effort, and LIPA unfortunately seems to have lost control of the situation and that's why you see so many people becoming so angry," Representative Peter King said on Saturday.

In New York City and neighbouring suburban Westchester County, utility Con Edison said it has restored electricity to 98 per cent of homes and businesses.

About 20,000 of the utility's customers remained powerless, down from a peak of more than one million.

In New Jersey, less than 85,000 customers were without power on Saturday, most along the coast, utilities said.

That was down from 2.7 million at the height of the storm. Most were expected to have power by the end of the weekend.

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