Barack Obama tours Sandy-hit New York City

Obama: "Most of the folks that I met here have been here 20, 30, 50 years"

US President Barack Obama has consoled bereaved residents in areas of New York that still have no electricity 17 days after the deadly super-storm Sandy.

Mr Obama took a helicopter tour of Breezy Point, a neighbourhood in Queens where about 100 homes were razed in a fire during the storm.

He also met residents at an emergency response centre in Staten Island.

More than 100 people were killed in the US as a result of Sandy, 43 of them in New York.

As of Tuesday, 25,000 people were still without electricity, mostly in New York.

Insurance firms pressurised

Outages were especially dangerous in the city's low-income public housing complexes, where some elderly and infirm people have found it hard or impossible to leave their homes.

Start Quote

If [President Obama] could do something to make this process a little faster and easier, that would be great ”

End Quote Anthony Gatti Sandy refugee

Staten Island was among the hardest-hit areas, as record storm surges flooded the island borough.

Mr Obama spoke in front of several damaged homes in Staten Island, vowing to stick with New Yorkers "until the rebuilding is complete".

He said he was designating Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a native New Yorker, to help.

At the emergency centre at a Staten Island high school, residents stood in line for supplies, a place to warm up or take a hot shower. They also queued to file claims with insurance companies.

The White House reported that about 1,500 people had received services at the centre as of Monday, one of several in affected areas.

Mr Obama called on insurance companies to "show some heart and some spirit in helping people rebuild".

'Heartbreak'

The US president also met privately with Damien and Glenda Moore, whose two sons were swept away in the storm.

"Obviously I expressed to them as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through," he said.

He said the family wanted to thank the New York City police officer, Lt Kevin Gallagher, who stayed with them until their children's bodies were found.

A burned stuffed toy is seen in a home devastated by fires during Sandy in the Belle Harbor section of the Queens borough of New York on 15 November 2012 Sandy sparked a fire which razed scores of homes in New York's borough of Queens

One man whose home in Staten Island was destroyed by Sandy was thankful for Mr Obama's visit, but thought he should have come earlier.

"If he could do something to make this process with the government a little faster and easier on us, that would be a great thing," said Anthony Gatti, who said he had queued all day every day to speak with emergency officials.

Mr Obama visited parts of New Jersey in the immediate aftermath of the storm, avoiding New York City so as not to hamper recovery efforts.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who joined Mr Obama on Thursday, said he would request $30bn (£19bn) in federal aid in order to rebuild.

That price tag included the construction of a power grid meant to help utilities find and fix outages, as well as an upgrade to New York City's fuel supply capacity.

Fuel shortages after the storm led to lengthy queues and petrol rationing.

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