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REUTERS - Frustration with continuing power outages, travel chaos, and long lines for gasoline grew on Saturday as residents of Long Island, hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, planned to a protest outside the headquarters of the local utility company.
Residents said they would take to the streets for a second day outside the Long Island Power Authority in Hickville. There are still over 400,000 customers without power nearly two weeks after the storm, and more than 170,000 are on Long Island.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers faced their second day of gasoline rationing. Under the system, which was introduced in New Jersey last week, cars with odd- and even-numbered license plates can fill up only on alternate days.
In Far Rockaway on Saturday morning, more than 500 people lined up with empty fuel cans. Word had spread through the hard-hit seaside community Friday night that a tanker truck carrying 8,000 gallons of free gas was to arrive around 10 a.m., thanks to an anonymous wealthy donor.
A New York Police Department captain, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the mystery donor had arranged to have the gas sent.
"The guy didn't want his name used, but he wanted to get gas to these people," the captain said. "Pretty decent thing to do ... these people need it bad."
More than a quarter of gas stations in the New York metropolitan area did not have fuel available for sale on Friday, the same number as on Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
Millions still face difficulty commuting with large crowds waiting for trains that are still running on reduced service after transport networks sustained major damage.
Authorities warned that for coastal communities where thousands of homes were washed away, flooded, or burned to the ground, full recovery would take a long time.
"This is not going to be a short journey," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference on Friday.
Thousands were in temporary shelters, and in New Jersey a tent city on the edge of Monmouth Park racetrack was home to hundreds. Authorities in the region said they did not have access to enough alternative housing or hotel rooms for all those who have been displaced.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who toured the Jersey Shore on Friday, said many popular vacation spots will not be fully rebuilt by next summer.
"This is our Katrina," he declared, referring to the hurricane that washed out New Orleans in 2005.
Still, homeowners were set to return to an 18-mile (30-km) barrier island off New Jersey's Atlantic coast on Saturday, giving some of them their first view of the devastation wrought by Sandy.
Long Beach Island, an enclave of mostly affluent vacation homes, took a direct hit from Sandy, with some homes washed full of sand and seawater and others completely destroyed.
The island, with about 10,000 year-round residents and perhaps 10 times that number in the summer, has been closed to residents except for brief visits to retrieve belongings.
Sandy smashed into the East Coast on October 29, killing at least 120 people and causing an estimated $50 billion in damage or economic losses. It destroyed homes along the New Jersey Shore and around New York City, cut off electricity for millions of people and knocked out much of the public transportation system.
As homeowners were to return to Long Beach Island on Saturday, an emergency website operated by towns on the island warned that some areas were still without sewer, water and electric service and the entire island was without gas. (lbieoc.org)
One community, Holgate, on the island's southern tip, would remain closed because it was still too dangerous to enter.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York City would work with federal authorities to provide electricians, plumbers and carpenters to help fix the worst-hit homes. He said he hoped to get people back into their homes by the end of the year.
Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Jackie Frank