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Sandy's Death Toll Rises, Even as East Coast Struggles Back to Life

By HealthDay Staff

THURSDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- New York City and other centers hit by "superstorm" Sandy began to restore power and transportation Wednesday and early Thursday, even as the recovery of more bodies pushed the death toll from the storm higher.

More than 75 people are known to have died as the storm barreled its way across the Northeast United States, but officials say that number is likely to rise as more bodies are pulled from the wreckage, the Associated Press reported. Millions are still without electricity.

Still, signs that life will return to normal are appearing. In New York City, officials reopened the Stock Exchange after a two-day shutdown, airports began to resume service and theater lights went on once more. Partial service has been restored to New York City's subway service, but AP reports that traffic in the nation's biggest city remains snarled.

Across the river in New Jersey, the state most agree was hit hardest by the storm, Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama toured the ravaged Jersey shore, promising speedy help for recovery. "We are here for you," Obama said in Brigantine, N.J. "We are not going to tolerate red tape. We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy."

Sandy -- which started as a hurricane until being dubbed a post-tropical cyclone Tuesday -- made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., Monday evening.

Millions have seen power restored to their homes. Overall, an estimated 4.6 million people across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region were still without power Thursday morning, down from a peak of 8.5 million, the AP said. The AP reported Wednesday that 1.6 million people across New York state were without power. In New Jersey, more than 1.76 million people are without electricity, as are 525,000 in Pennsylvania, 378,000 in Connecticut, more than 47,000 in Maryland and just under 20,000 in Massachusetts.

Eqecat, a company that predicts the costs of catastrophes for insurance companies, said Sandy's economic damage could total $10 billion to $20 billion, the Washington Post reported.

For the millions still without power, preparation will have been key, said one expert.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said it's important to have stockpiles of prescription medicines, special medical supplies, nonperishable foods -- baby formula and pet foods, too -- as well as emergency essentials.

"Be prepared to be self-sufficient for one to five days without access to grocery stores," Glatter said.

Experts also advised that local authorities must be told about any elderly, disabled or bedridden people who might need emergency assistance. Find out where your community's emergency shelters are.

If you evacuate, Glatter said it's important to have a ready-made kit or "go bag," including extra eyeglasses, sanitized baby bottles and diapers. People with diabetes should keep extra insulin on hand and a ready supply of snacks in case their sugar levels drop, he said. Store insulin or any liquid antibiotics on ice or cold packs during power failures, he suggested.

Patients who use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may need an alternative power source during the storm. This includes a CPAP battery pack, he said.

To be on the safe side, assemble a one- to two-week supply of prescription medications, Glatter said. And "stay connected -- have a list of your doctors with their contact information."

Keep emergency phone numbers near every phone and in your cellphone "contacts" list.

"Have coins and cash available, too," Glatter said.

In terms of hurricane supplies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested the following:

  • Three to five days' worth of water, about five gallons per person, in clean containers and three to five days' worth of nonperishable food.
  • Well-stocked first-aid kits for your home and car. The car also needs maps, food, blankets and basic tools such as pliers and tape.
  • Charged cellphones, flashlights, a battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
  • Extra blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Soaps, toothpaste and other personal hygiene necessities. Also, paper towels or baby wipes for personal cleaning if showering or bathing isn't possible.
  • Water-purifying supplies such as chlorine or iodine tablets or unscented household chlorine bleach.
  • A fire extinguisher that all in the family know how to use.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about emergency preparedness.

SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency medicine physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Associated Press; Washington Post; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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