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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Storm-battered northern Europe slowly gets back to normal
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Oct 29, 2013


US trio charged with Sandy relief fraud
New York City (AFP) Oct 29, 2013 - Three Americans have been charged with defrauding more than $68,000 in Hurricane Sandy relief funds as the United States on Tuesday marked the anniversary of the killer cyclone.

Two women in their 30s from New York and a man, 52, from North Carolina are accused in the first publicized fraud cases linked to the massive relief effort.

A year after the hurricane slammed into the East Coast, many people are still homeless from what has been one of the costliest storms in US history.

Congress approved $60 billion in emergency relief, but bottlenecks, delays and insurance issues have made it difficult for many victims to rebuild shattered lives.

The trio are accused of defrauding and stealing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which has awarded $1.4 billion to victims of Sandy.

Joseph McClam, who is to be arrested Tuesday, has been charged with claiming and receiving more than $32,000 compensation for a New York property he claimed was his primary residence when Sandy struck.

But according to his arrest warrant, the home in Sheepshead Bay had been vacant since a fire in 2010 and that McClam lived in North Carolina.

He is accused of spending, at most, one weekend a month in the basement of the house when he visited New York.

The two women are due in a US district court in Suffolk County, New York on Tuesday over allegations that they forged documents to receive more than $18,000 each.

Jena Sowinski, 37, allegedly claimed that the apartment she rented had been made uninhabitable by the storm, when in fact it had suffered only minor damage.

Tselane Gibbs, 31, also forged documents claiming rent she purportedly paid after relocating to an apartment in Brooklyn where she never lived.

Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and paralyzed parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

More than 200 people were killed. At least 650,000 houses were affected and power cuts lasted for months.

Countries in northern Europe lashed by a storm that killed 16 people were on Tuesday still struggling with power outages and travel disruptions a day after the tempest.

After gusting winds and heavy rain, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and northern Germany began weighing up the damage left in the storm's wake.

In Britain, where four people died, 61,000 households were still without electricity, albeit down from the 600,000 who were cut off at some point Monday, according to Energy Networks Association.

While some trains were delayed or cancelled, services were returning to schedule.

In Germany, where seven people died in the storms since Sunday, train operator Deutsche Bahn warned that lines in the north of the country could take time to resume normal services.

The storm wreaked damage on rail lines in the cities of Bremen and Hamburg as well as Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein states, the company said.

Several schools in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's northern most region between the North Sea and Baltic, were due to remain closed Tuesday, local DPA news agency reported.

Most train lines in southern Sweden were operating again but about 60,000 homes were still without electricity and some 35,000 phone customers are without landlines.

In some rural areas, it was expected to take several days before electricity was back on.

Two people died in Denmark, where national rail company DSB warned of delays throughout the day.

And in the Netherlands, where two people died, initial private sector damage was estimated at 95 million euros ($131 million), excluding public buildings and agriculture, the Insurers Association said.

The storm also claimed one life in France, where it has been named Christian, while British media dubbed it St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes whose feast day was Monday.

burs-kjm/dlc/yad

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