By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON Nov 3 President Barack Obama told
emergency response officials on Saturday to cut through
government "red tape" and work without delay to help areas
ravaged by monster storm Sandy to return to normal as quickly as
"There's nothing more important than getting this right,"
the president said at a briefing with officials from the Federal
Emergency Management Administration, the Department of Homeland
Security, and state and local governments.
With the presidential election four days away, the
destructive storm has shifted some of the focus away from
Obama's tight race with Republican Mitt Romney. While the
natural disaster has afforded the president an opportunity to
rise above the fray of campaigning, it has also raised the
stakes for him to show his administration can respond quickly
and effectively in a crisis.
Obama spoke by video conference with the governors of New
York, New Jersey and Connecticut and municipal officials to
discuss efforts to help the East Coast states reeling from
Monday's storm that left 110 dead, millions without power, and
whole neighborhoods destroyed by flooding.
"We still have a long way to go to make sure that the people
of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and some of the surrounding
areas get their basic needs taken care of," the president told
Obama said people working on rescue and relief efforts are
making a "120 percent" effort, but urged those providing
disaster relief to work without delay.
"We don't have patience for bureaucracy. We don't have
patience for red tape," the president said.
Relief efforts are focusing on restoring power and pumping
water out of flooded areas, Obama said.
"It's critical for us to get power on as quickly as
possible," he said. Military equipment was being brought in from
around the country to help with those efforts, the president
Relief work is also concentrated on meeting the needs of
people affected by the storm, removing debris, and positioning
National Guard to help getting transportation systems back to
normal, he added.
Patience had worn thin on Friday as millions remained
without power and many drivers waited in long lines for
The government moved to ease the fuel crunch by tapping
strategic reserves and buying millions of gallons of gasoline
and diesel to be trucked to storm-damaged areas.