U.S. President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in New Jersey from Hurricane Irene and plans to visit the state on Sunday.
According to information from the White House, Obama has signed a New Jersey disaster declaration, dated back to Saturday, and has ordered that federal aid supplement the state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by Hurricane Irene.
Authorities have attributed at least 45 deaths in 13 states to the storm, and recovery costs have been estimated to be tens of billions of dollars. About 2 million people are still without electricity days after Irene descended on the East Coast of the United States.
Approximately 178,000 people are without power in New Jersey, which suffered widespread flooding. Advisories to boil drinking water are still in effect for at least eight municipal systems.
Some 10,000 people who followed warnings to evacuate are still out of their homes at this time.
New Jersey ordered new evacuations as the Passaic River in the northeastern part of the state crested, causing extensive flooding.
Rescues were necessary in Paterson, the state's third-largest city.
Gov. Chris Christie toured Wayne on Tuesday, near the Passaic, calling what he saw extraordinary despair.
Gloria Moses told The Associated Press, as she gathered with others at the edge of what used to be a network of streets now overflowed with water: Been in Paterson all my life, I'm 62 years old, and I've never seen anything like this.
The White House has said Obama's actions make federal funding available to people affected in the northern counties of Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset.
The assistance they will get can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster, the White House said.
There is also federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations ?- on a cost-sharing basis -? for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Irene in the southern counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem, according to the White House.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate traveled to New York and New Jersey to survey the damage on Wednesday.
They also visited Connecticut, North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia on Tuesday along with other officials.
In Vermont, virtually crippled from Irene, officials were providing basic necessities to residents who have no power, telephone service or ways to leave their home. Food and water has become the basic form of rescue since there are too many to evacuate.
FEMA said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.
FEMA said that residents and business owners who experienced losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance on Thursday by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.
The White House said the toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.