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October 31, 2012

Sandy leaves devastation behind in N.Y., N.J.

(Continued)

Gino Vitale, a Brooklyn landlord who owns 25 apartments in the area, said that 16 of them were flooded, some submerged in more than eight feet of water. One of his renters phoned him in a panic about 7 p.m. Monday, saying, "What do I do?" Get out, he answered. "By 9 it was over the fridge," he said.

People were stunned at the sight of a Bayliner pleasure boat that was swept into the very end of Sheepshead Bay, slamming into the concrete abutment. The smell of gas oozed from its tank.

"What's that smell?" cried Bella Kharajyan. Her daughter, Milena Rangini, 27, covered her nostrils with her scarf. The two had spent a long, tiring night in their second-floor apartment in Brighton Beach as other residents flocked to their door, knowing that the two women from Armenia spoke English and could understand the news reports.

Kharajyan bemoaned the lack of help for people who speak languages other than English and Spanish, such as their Armenian- or Uzbek-speaking neighbors. "A little bit I understand American information news," she said. "I don't see anybody helping us."

President Barack Obama signed federal emergency declarations for 10 states and the District of Columbia, and he canceled campaign plans for Monday and Tuesday so he could remain at the White House and oversee the storm response. After visiting the headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington, Obama told reporters, "My message to the federal government: No bureaucracy. No red tape." He said if local officials get no for an answer from the federal government, "they can call me personally at the White House."

Republican challenger Mitt Romney also shelved many of his campaign plans but held a "storm relief" event near Dayton, Ohio. Romney ignored repeated questions from reporters about whether he wished to scale back the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a position he advocated during a GOP primary debate.

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