US & Canada

Superstorm Sandy: US marks one year anniversary

The US is marking one year since Superstorm Sandy hit the US east coast, killing at least 117 people.

Sandy was the most destructive storm in the US since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Monday, historical immigration landmark Ellis Island reopened for the first time since the storm flooded low-lying areas in New York City.

President Barack Obama commemorated the dead and pledged the US government would continue to help communities rebuild.

He said the US had provided billions of dollars in assistance to hundreds of thousands of people and small business owners.

"That's who we are as Americans - we take care of our own," he said in a statement released by the White House. "We leave nobody behind. And as long as our fellow Americans continue to travel the long and sometimes difficult road to recovery, their country will stay with them every step of the way."

But many communities are still struggling amid complaints emergency funds have failed to reach the hardest-hit.

Still suffering

As of August, just under a quarter of the $48bn (£30bn) earmarked for rebuilding had been committed to local governments, according to Reuters news agency.

Image caption Ellis Island Immigration Museum has only just reopened to the public

Federal officials have unveiled plans for a second round of disaster relief amounting to $5bn for five states and New York City, and they pledged that the pace of spending would pick up after a slow start.

"In year one, we all agreed the aid flowed too slowly," Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters.

"The second year will be a lot better. The spigot is now open."

The BBC's Nick Bryant says the shorelines of New Jersey and New York still bear deep scars from Sandy, with empty lots where family and vacation homes used to stand, and businesses are closed down and boarded up.

Many owners are still battling to receive pay-outs from their insurance companies, while others are still waiting to find out whether they will receive compensation from the government for wrecked properties that are now uninhabitable.

"It is going to take years to rebuild," resident Aimam Youssef, who lost his home in Midland Beach, Staten Island, told the BBC.

"We should not be suffering like this after one year, we should not."

Almost two-thirds of the people who applied for federal disaster aid have not received any, our correspondent says.

In New York City, as work repairing the last subway line to be damaged by flooding continues, transit officials were offering free subway rides on Tuesday from hard-hit areas of the Rockaways and Howard Beach.

Image caption The damage caused by Superstorm Sandy is still visible along the shoreline

Meanwhile, homes in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island, have been bought out under a state programme that promises to turn neighbourhoods wrecked by Superstorm Sandy into perpetual green space.

Events are being held to mark the anniversary of the storm, including a state-wide prayer service in New Jersey.

At least 117 deaths have been blamed on Sandy in the US, according to officials.

The storm also killed scores of people as it swept across the Caribbean.

Millions of people were forced to flee their homes.

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