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Gun out at the fuel pump as east coast struggles with Hurricane Sandy fallout

Saturday, 3 November 2012 - 9:00am IST | Place: New Jersey | Agency: The Daily Telegraph
In Queens, New York, a man was arrested after he attempted to jump the queue at a petrol station and then allegedly pointed a pistol at another customer.

Widespread fuel shortages have caused chaos at petrol stations in New York and New Jersey, with police being called to break up fights at the pumps, as the fallout from Superstorm Sandy continues. Mile-long queues and fighting between customers have been reported, with one man in New York arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on another motorist.

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York state, said he would suspend requirements on tankers docking in the New York Harbour, which had just reopened to oil vessels. One ship carrying two million gallons of gasoline had docked overnight in Newburgh, 60 miles north of New York City.

Some New Yorkers have resorted to digging through rubbish bins looking for food. Images filmed by NBC in New York show residents of the Lower East Side, which has been without power since Monday, digging through a skip in search edible waste. The misery may be compounded by threats of a new storm that could hit the east coast of the US next week, just after the country goes to the polls on Tuesday. Meteorologists say that the storm, which will not be as severe as Sandy, is six days out and may divert before it is due to hit.

The fuel shortage in New York and New Jersey has led to huge queues of cars and people on foot attempting to fill jerry cans to fuel generators in the absence of electricity, leading to outbreaks of frustration. In Queens, New York, a man was arrested after he attempted to jump the queue at a petrol station and then allegedly pointed a pistol at another customer. Sean Bailey, 35, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, said he hoped the transit situation would ease when the subway system came into use again, expected to happen over the weekend. In New Jersey, pump attendants have complained at the queues. Abhishek Soni, the owner of an Exxon outlet in Montclair, told the New York Times that disputes at his station became so bad that he called the police and turned off the pumps for 45 minutes to restore calm.

"I've been pumping gas for 36 hours; I pumped 17,000 gallons," he told the newspaper. "My nose, my mouth is bleeding from the fumes." Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, deployed state police troopers to storm-hit areas to prevent "potential looting or other crimes".

New Jersey is also dealing with the emergence of an outbreak of carbon monoxide-related deaths after people were exposed to the gas while using petrol or diesel-driven generators to provide power. Five people are understood to have died in such incidents since Monday. Exposure to carbon monoxide can occur unless the generators, which produce the gas, are properly ventilated.

"The problem we're having is that people go out and buy portable generators and have no idea what they're doing," said Dr Steven Marcus, director of New Jersey's poison control centre. Atlantic City residents were preparing to return to their homes for the first time since a mandatory evacuation order a week ago. The city, one of the worst-hit areas of the storm, has also been given the green light for its casinos to reopen. New York City's struggle to recover has prompted a row over Bloomberg's decision to push ahead with the New York marathon on Sunday. One city politician criticised Mr Bloomberg's decision to stage the race while the clean-up continued as "idiotic".

James Oddo, a Staten Island councilman, made the remark on his Facebook page and then told the New York Daily News: "The notion of diverting even one police officer, one first responder, one asset away from this carnage is beyond irrational." Online petitions calling for the cancellation of the race have also been supported.




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