A man pushes his car after running out of gas while waiting in line at a gas station that still has fuel in Fairfield, New Jersey
Rescuers searched flooded homes for survivors, drivers lined up for hours to get scarce gasoline and millions remained without power on Thursday as New York City and nearby towns struggled to recover from one of the biggest storms to hit the United States.
New York subway trains crawled back to limited service after being shut down since Sunday, but the lower half of Manhattan still lacked power and surrounding areas such as Staten Island, the New Jersey shore and the city of Hoboken remained crippled from a record storm surge and flooding, reports Reuters.
At least 95 people died in the "superstorm" that ravaged the Northeastern United States on Monday. Officials said the number could rise as rescuers searched house-by-house in coastal towns.
"I worked all my life, and everything I had is right there," said Bob Stewart, 59, standing on the Jersey Shore beach in the town of Seaside Heights and looking at the pile of debris that was once his home. "I put my life right there."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Thursday that nearly a 1,000 people had been rescued by authorities.
In blackened New York City neighbourhoods, some residents complained there was a lack of police and feared an increase in crime. Some were also concerned about traffic safety. New York police officials were not immediately available to comment.
"People feel safe during the day but as soon as the sun sets, people are extremely scared. The fact that Guardian Angels are on the streets trying to restore law just shows how out of control the situation is in lower Manhattan," said Wolfgang Ban, owner of Edi & The Wolf restaurant in Manhattan's Alphabet City neighbourhood.
The Guardian Angels are a group of anti-crime volunteers.
More than 15 people in the borough of Queens were charged with looting, and a man was charged on Thursday with threatening another driver with a gun after he tried to cut in on a line of cars waiting for gas, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
The financial cost of the storm promised to be staggering. Disaster modelling company Eqecat estimated Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses, double its previous forecast.
At the high end of the range, Sandy would rank as the fourth costliest U.S. catastrophe ever, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The presidential campaign was back in full swing on Thursday after being on hold for several days because of the storm. President Barack Obama, locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney head of next Tuesday's election, appeared to gain politically from his disaster relief performance.
Christie, a vocal Romney supporter, praised Obama, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent, endorsed Obama on Thursday.
In New York, U.N. headquarters suffered severe damage and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered recovery help to the United States and Caribbean nations affected by the storm.
The hunt for gasoline added to a climate of uncertainty as Sandy's death toll and price tag rose.
"I'm so stressed out," said Jessica Bajno, 29, a teacher from Elmont, Long Island, who was waiting in line for gas. "I've been driving around to nearby towns all morning, and being careful about not running out of gas in the process. Everything is closed. I'm feeling anxious."
Some residents may lack electricity for weeks. New York utility Consolidated Edison restored power to 250,000 customers, with 650,000 others still in the dark.