States await flood relief

July 16, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Almost three weeks after floodwaters swept through parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania with a destructive force not experienced in decades, residents and officials are struggling to begin a vast recovery effort that could end up costing $1 billion or more.

With most of the worst damage in rural communities, the full scope of the destruction is still being assessed. Forty-five counties in the three states have been declared federal disaster areas. "The amount of damage and the extent of flooding are the most seen in 30 years," said Larry Sommers, the deputy field coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in New York.

Officials say dozens of communities are coping with the loss of their business districts. Possibly hundreds of roads and bridges were ruined or remain closed. Some homes still lack power, though how many is unclear.

The recent heat and humidity have caused outbreaks of mold in waterlogged houses. Orders that water must be boiled remain in effect in some areas. At a waste-water treatment plant in Oneonta, N.Y., raw sewage continues to flow into the Susquehanna River.

More than 15,000 people have applied for federal disaster assistance. Yet many are waiting to receive aid checks and have been unable to begin the task of rebuilding.

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