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Crews struggle to restore power in ice-covered US northeast

President George W. Bush declared Massachusetts a disaster area late Saturday, unlocking federal aid to supplement local response efforts to the storm which first struck on Thursday with a vicious cold snap.
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Dec 14, 2008
Emergency crews struggled Sunday to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes, after the northeastern United States was sheathed in ice by one of the most vicious winter storms on record.

Utility companies said it may take days to restore power after the ice storm entombed the region in a rock-hard glaze late Thursday, while frigid temperatures sent thousands fleeing to emergency shelters.

As many as 800,000 customers in the states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont were without electricity, US media reported, and states of emergency were in effect across much of the region known as New England.

The storm initially left as many as 1.4 million people without power, energy officials said.

Officials across the region warned that could be more outages as drooping trees and branches shed ice and snap back into their original positions, potentially taking out more power lines.

Meanwhile, relief groups such as the Red Cross were seeking assistance outside New England, including from Canada.

"We are used to cold, and we are used to snow and ice, but this is a storm that is very unique," Lisa Michaud, executive director of the Greater Manchester (New Hampshire) Red Cross, said on Fox.

"We received over an inch of ice on top of rain. It came hard and it came fast and we weren't prepared for it."

Authorities also said it may take several days to restore power throughout the region, because of the sheer number of outages and because of the extent of the devastation, which has made it harder to carry out needed repairs.

Still, authorities in some areas reported making steady progress. New Hampshire, for example, which reported as many as 322,000 customers without power as of late Friday, said that number had shrunk to about 194,000 by midday Sunday.

The company announced more than 120 additional crews from as far away as Maryland, Ohio, and Canada. In total, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) said more than 500 line and tree crews were working Sunday to restore power.

President George W. Bush declared Massachusetts a disaster area late Saturday, unlocking federal aid to supplement local response efforts to the storm which first struck on Thursday with a vicious cold snap.

The Red Cross said it has opened 19 shelters across New Hampshire, Michaud said.

But even when the immediate emergency has been dealt with, officials said they anticipate longterm effects from the storm.

PSNH said there are a number of areas where the entire electric system must be rebuilt from the ground up and that many higher voltage power lines along main roads will require extensive rebuilding, as will lines damaged in the storm that connect smaller roads and individual homes.

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Major Sumatran quake, tsunami likely in decades: study
Singapore (AFP) Dec 12, 2008
More than one million people on Indonesia's Sumatra island are vulnerable to a massive earthquake and tsunami potentially more destructive than one which struck four years ago, scientists who released a study Friday warned.

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