Hurricane Sandy losses hit $42B across New York

The bill to repair the damage from Hurricane Sandy has climbed to $42 billion US across New York state, officials said Monday as they turned to the federal government for disaster aid.

The cost includes $32 billion for repairs and restoration, but also includes an additional accounting of $9 billion for mitigation of damage and for preventive measures for the next disastrous storm.

"It's common sense; it's intelligent," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the effort to seek preventive work for the next storm, which would include protecting the electrical power grid and cellphone network. "Why don't you spend some money now to save money in the future? And that's what prevention and mitigation is."

Cuomo said that Sandy caused more costly damage than Hurricane Katrina that slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005, although Katrina had a far higher death told than Sandy. He said New York taxpayers can't foot the bill: "It would incapacitate the state. … Tax increases are always a last, last, last resort."

"The city will struggle to recover in the long term unless expedited federal funding is supplied," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote in a letter to New York state members of Congress.

Bloomberg said total public and private losses to New York City from Sandy are $19 billion. Only $3.8 billion of that will be covered by private insurance. Reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide another $5.4 billion of help. That leaves the net cost to repair Sandy damage at about $9.8 billion, Bloomberg said.

"Federal legislative action will be required to address the budget gap that will result once available FEMA funds and insurance proceeds are drawn down," he wrote.

"It really is survival," said New York congressman Peter King. "This is an emergency. This should be separate of all the debate about the fiscal cliff and everything else."

King said he spoke with House Speaker John Boehner, who he said has pledged to be co-operative in the finding enough disaster aid. He confirmed the new total provided by the Cuomo administration official.

King, a Republican who represents hard-hit Long Island, said combined effort involving New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is needed to extract enough federal disaster aid to rebuild and recovery the Eastern Seaboard.

"I am certainly going to do all I can to fight for this," King said in an interview after a meeting with Cuomo and congressional delegation from New York.

"The governor is showing leadership here," the Republican said. "He was emphasizing bipartisanship. We're not Republicans and Democrats, we're all New Yorkers and this is the worst financial hit New York has ever had."

U.S. President Barack Obama had earlier pledged federal help for New York, New Jersey and other areas that were hard hit by the huge storm, which caused serious flooding along much of the northeast coast of the U.S.

Bloomberg said the city's transportation department estimates $1 billion in incremental costs, including nearly $800 million for street reconstruction alone. The mayor estimated that Sandy cost the New York City economy about $5.7 billion in lost productivity.

Economists say total losses from the Oct. 29 superstorm could be as high as $50 billion across the U.S., making it one of the most costly natural disasters in American history.

Hurricane Sandy left at least 121 people dead across the U.S., with 43 of those deaths in New York City. Another 67 were killed in the Caribbean and two people died in Canada.

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