US & Canada

Anger grows in New York over slow snow clean-up

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Media captionSome passengers spent a second night stranded at airports

Anger is mounting in New York and New Jersey over the slow pace of snow removal following the severe storms which brought the region to a halt.

Major thoroughfares in Manhattan have been cleared, but large parts of the city have yet to be ploughed.

Many residents are stuck in their homes unable to get to work, and piles of snow are hindering ambulances.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called the clean-up operation the worst in memory.

"We're hearing reports from all over of people not even having seen a plough by the afternoon of the day after," Ms Quinn told reporters. "This is a level of lack of clean-up that I really can't recall."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended his administration's response to the blizzard, telling reporters that his staff are working as hard as they can and "using every single resource at our disposal".

Image caption Piles of snow lie in Manhattan's Times Square but many city streets have not been cleared

The city has hired 1,900 labourers over the past two days to shovel snow from pavements and streets, and deployed 28 front-end loaders to help dig out stranded vehicles.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Bloomberg said only 50 city buses remained stuck on city streets, down from 600 the day before.

He noted that the unusually large number of vehicles stuck in the snow had made the clean-up extraordinarily difficult.

Mr Bloomberg has been criticized for not putting enough effort into clearing New York's outer boroughs compared to the downtown Manhattan area.

Ms Quinn has announced that she will hold hearings to investigate problems with the clean-up.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie is under fire for taking a holiday at Disney World in central Florida while his state is reeling in the aftermath of the storm.

Electricity has been restored to most homes in eastern Canada after the storm caused widespread power outages. About 800 customers reportedly remain without power in the New Brunswick area.

More snow is forecast in some parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada's easternmost province.

Life-threatening chaos

Image caption Snow plough drivers tried to aid dozens of ambulances stuck in the streets

Mr Bloomberg said that the city's emergency responders, whom he called the finest in the world, were overwhelmed during the blizzard, leaving many needy people without help.

On Monday, the 911 emergency phone line received almost 50,000 calls - the sixth highest number in 911's history.

The New York Times reported that over 200 ambulances had become stuck in streets left unploughed or blocked by abandoned cars.

Paramedics had to carry stretchers long distances, climbing over piles of snow, to reach sick residents.

The New York Times also reported that one woman with stroke symptoms waited six hours for a response, by which stage she was unresponsive, and a woman in labour waited over nine hours for help. By then, it was too late to save her baby.

Mr Bloomberg said he was "extremely dissatisfied" with the performance of the city's emergency medical service, and would be investigating what had gone wrong.

Clogged airports

Meanwhile, most airlines have restored regular services but are struggling to cope with the volume of stranded passengers.

Image caption Travellers form long lines in the cold waiting for taxis at La Guardia airport

More than 5,000 flights were cancelled in the New York area alone during the storm.

The backlog of flights has caused chaos at several airports which are having difficulty finding enough gates for passengers to disembark.

Two Cathay Pacific aircraft and one British Airways jet were stuck on the tarmac at New York's JFK Airport for seven hours while they waited for a gate to open up.

Passenger Arthur Wong, who flew from Vancouver to New York with Cathay Pacific, told the BBC his plane had been stuck on the tarmac at JFK Airport for seven-and-a-half hours after landing on Tuesday.

Moe Fayed, from New York City, said he had spent 19 hours stranded at Boston Logan airport because of problems at JFK and had been told the earliest his party could now leave was 2 January because of the backlog of travellers.

"The hotel looks like a refugee camp, with many people on their iPads and phones desperately trying to re-route," he told the BBC.

Airport terminals are still flooded with travellers, many of whom were stuck in long queues for rental cars, lost luggage and ticket rebooking.

Airport vendors can barely keep up with demand, according to reports. One Starbucks coffee shop at JFK Airport shut its doors on Tuesday after running out of supplies, and has yet to reopen.

Train services in New York are slowly returning to normal, but the Long Island Rail Road, a heavily used commuter service, is running only seven of its 11 lines.

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