PATERSON, NJ (CBSNewYork) – President Barack Obama says he will do whatever it takes to help those communities that were flooded, battered and bruised by Irene.
The president visited New Jersey Sunday for a firsthand look at the destruction caused by Irene. Flood waters from the swollen Passaic River have devastated a number of northern New Jersey communities since the storm hit.
PHOTO GALLERY: Obama Tours Hurricane Irene Damage In New Jersey
“We should not underestimate the heartache that’s going through a lot of these communities, affecting a lot of families,” Obama said during a news conference. “We want to make sure that we’re there to help and I’m going to make sure that even after the cameras are gone and attention is somewhere else, that FEMA and federal officials continue to work with our local officials to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
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On his way to Paterson, the president stopped in Wayne, that was also hit hard by flooding from the Pompton River, which flows into the Passaic.
“The entire country is behind you,” said Obama. “And we are going to make sure that we provide all the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild.”
Christie, who has praised Obama’s response to Irene, greeted the president when he arrived in Newark.
Once in Wayne, Obama was joined by Mayor Christopher Vergano, who led the president on a tour of Fayette Avenue.
“Everybody’s going to be working hard to help you recover,” Obama told one woman. Residents watched as the president walked past flooded homes with piles of garbage and soaked possessions lining the streets.
Obama said the government will uphold its promise to support communities that were hit by the storm.
“I know that there’s been some talk about whether there’s going to be a slow down in getting funding out here, emergency relief. As President of the United States, I want to make it perfectly clear that we are going to meet our federal obligations,” he said.
After Wayne, Obama made his way to Paterson where mayor Jeffery Jones estimates 3,500 people are still in shelters or other accommodations. The raging Passaic River flooded the downtown and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate in the wake of Irene.
“The recovery part is probably the most difficult because each home has to be assessed one by one by the utility companies to make sure that the flood, the mud, the contaminants don’t create other hazards,” said Paterson mayor Jeffery Jones. “So it’s going to be a very slow process.”
The flooding also caused serious damage to homes and businesses.
Linda Staton has lived in her Paterson home for almost 20 years and says this is the first time she’s been flooded. While hauling full trash bags to the curb, she says she’s most of what she lost was in her basement.
“I work at a school, I’m a personal assistant and I had a lot of school supplies and a lot of food in the basement,” she said. “All my winter clothes are gone. All our appliances that were down there, the washer, the dryer, the freezer.”
Meanwhile, all 21 counties in New Jersey have now been declared major disaster areas and are eligible for disaster relief.
For more information about receiving federal assistance, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
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