Cold hits storm victims ahead of U.S. elections

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NEW YORK – Victims of superstorm Sandy on the East Coast struggled against the cold on Sunday amid fuel shortages and power outages, two days ahead of an election that polls suggest is a dead heat between President Barack Obama and his Republican rival.

Fuel supplies were rumbling toward disaster zones and a million customers regained electricity as near-freezing temperatures descended on the U.S. Northeast overnight. But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned the city that it would be days before power was fully restored and fuel shortages ended.

Obama, neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Mitt Romney, ordered emergency response officials to cut through government “red tape” and work without delay to help ravaged areas return to normal as quickly as possible.

The power restorations relit the skyline in Lower Manhattan for the first time in nearly a week and allowed 80 percent of the New York City subway service to resume. But some 2.5 million homes and business still lacked power across the Northeast, down from 3.5 million on Friday.

The power outages combined with a heating oil shortage meant some homes would be cold as unseasonably frigid weather set in. Forecasters saw temperatures dipping into the upper 30s Fahrenheit (around 3 degrees Celsius) on Saturday night with freezing temperatures expected next week.

Bloomberg urged those without power and heat to head to shelters where they could keep warm and receive food.

“Right now it’s starting to really get cold,” he said.

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