Hurricane Sandy damage bill tops $40b

Hurricane Sandy damage bill tops $40b

Hurricane Sandy damage bill tops $40b

Posted 27 November 2012, 12:28 AEST

New York's governor says the damage bill from Superstorm Sandy has topped $40 billion across the state.

Governor Andrew Cuomo told a new conference Sandy's impact had by some measures been worse than Katrina, which caused devastation along the US Gulf Coast in 2005.

Hurricane Katrina left 1,833 dead - far higher than the 110 killed during last month's hurricane-strength Sandy - but Mr Cuomo says damage to property and businesses was worse this time around.

Mr Cuomo said the total cost of recovery work in New York state alone came to $31.3 billion, with another $8.7 billion in prevention expenses.

Including neighbouring New Jersey, he says the total bill was about $59.15 billion though that number seemed sure to rise when including extra funds needed for protection against future storms.

Mr Cuomo appealed to Washington for federal aid, saying the damage bill would "incapacitate" New York's budget.

It will also be a challenge for Washington, where congressional leaders and president Barack Obama were locked in negotiations over possible budget cuts and tax increases as part of a plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

"Make no mistake, this will not be an easy task, particularly given the impending fiscal cliff, and a congress that has been much less friendly to disaster relief than in the past," New York senator Charles Schumer said.

The state's other senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, said Washington had a "clear responsibility to commit all of the necessary resources to help us rebuild".

Big Apple recovers

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier said the city had itself suffered $18.13 billion in Sandy-related costs.

Mr Bloomberg said the Big Apple would struggle to recover in the long term unless expedited federal funding was supplied.

The October 29 storm flooded the subway train system, damaged tens of thousands of houses in the New York area, knocked out electricity in swaths of the city for days, and prompted severe fuel shortages.

Among the storm's prominent victims was the iconic Statue of Liberty, which had only just reopened after a year's refurbishments and is now to be closed again for at least the remainder of the year.

The National Park Service said on its website "a projected reopening date has not yet been established".

According to the mayor, the net repair bill from the storm falls to $9.35 billion once private insurance and already pledged Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid are factored in.

Mr Bloomberg said federal action will be required to address the budget gap that will result once available funds and insurance proceeds are drawn down.

"This funding will be needed to address the significant local expenses that have been and will be incurred, including costs that are ineligible under FEMA such as hazard mitigation, long-term housing solutions, and shoreline restoration and protection," he said.

AFP