Hurricane Sandy's US victims struggled to adjust to fuel shortages, power outages and temporary housing, four days after the powerful storm hit into the East Coast, killing more than 90 people.
New York's famed subway slowly resumed back to life with limited service on Thursday, offering some relief from the storm-battered city's gridlock, but East Coast residents faced long lines at petrol stations and lingering blackouts.
At least 92 people have now been reported dead across the 15 states hit by Monday night's unprecedented storm, including 40 in New York City, while some economists have estimated the disaster will cost as much as $50 bn.
More bodies are being found as police and firefighters continue "their lifesaving mission, going block-by-block and door-to-door in the areas devastated by the hurricane," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday.
With about 650,000 people still without power in New York, Bloomberg said the city would start handing out food and water, while National Guard officers and police would go into high-rise buildings to help the elderly.
'Debris littering the streets'
A journalist for the TV network NBC, reporting from Toms River in New Jersey, said authorities had begun to clean up the area and ensure it was safe for evacuated residents to return.
"There's still debris littering the streets. Pieces of people's homes, furniture, even boats washed away from the shore."
- Danielle Leigh, NBC
"There's still debris littering the streets," said Danielle Leigh. "Pieces of people's homes, furniture, even boats washed away from the shore.
"They're clearing the roads that are unpassable, also doing something about homes ripped from their foundations.
"Right now, those whole communities are entirely cut off. Officials will not let anybody in because they say it is unsafe. Many people are anxious to get back and see what's left of their homes."
New Jersey power company Public Service Enterprise Group Inc (PSEG) said it would take seven to 10 days to restore power to all its customers after the tidal surge from Sandy badly damaged the electric transmission system and some switching stations.
Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York City, said the situation there was "slowly improving", but that movement of people to and from work was still significantly disrupted.
"Getting around town is extremely difficult," she said. "Some subway services have been restored, buses are back on schedule but some tunnels into the city remain closed."
Power outages and lack of supply from shut terminals and ports have severely hampered distribution of petrol in northern New Jersey and New York.
Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Egg Harbor, New Jersey, said residents there had been "panic buying" goods and fuel ahead of the storm.
|John Terrett reports how Atlantic City is reeling from Sandy
"Many of the petrol stations ran out," he said. "Now, many of those pumps don't have any fuel and of course delivery is very difficult under the circumstances.
"Also, much of the petrol in the US is pumped electronically, so when power is out, as it is in huge swaths of the state right now, you can't get the fuel from the tank into the cars."
Sandy started as a late-season hurricane in the Caribbean, where it killed 69 people, before smashing ashore in the US.
North American deaths from Sandy rose to at least 97 on Thursday, as deaths reported in New York City jumped substantially.
Authorities have warned the numbers are subject to change and could go up or down, as rescuers search house-to-house through coastal towns. A decrease may occur if the cause of death is later deemed not to be a direct result on the storm.
President Barack Obama has visited areas hit by the storm and is now back on the campaign trail, with just five days to go before the elections.