Passaic River
Flood waters from the Passaic River engulf a service station after Hurricane Irene in Paterson, New Jersey, August 31, 2011. Flood waters finally started to recede from areas of the northeast devastated by Hurricane Irene but many communities were still underwater on Wednesday and relief workers battled cut-off roads and raging rivers to deliver emergency supplies. REUTERS

President Barack Obama declared Wednesday a number of towns, cities and counties in New Jersey as major disaster areas and ordered federal assistance to supplement storm-battered areas affected by Hurricane Irene on August 27, 2011, and days after.

Federal officials say, assistance could be in the form of 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.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Craig Fugate, chief administrator of FEMA, toured areas heavily damaged by Passaic River flooding on Wednesday, the same day that the president signed a disaster declaration for five counties in the state.

Obama is scheduled to visit Paterson, New Jersey, one of the hardest hit cities, on Sunday, the White House said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials said damage surveys will continue throughout the state, and more counties may be eligible after the assessments are fully completed.

Passaic County, where Paterson is located, will be eligible for federal assistance such as grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other recovery programs.

Other counties that will also be eligible are Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset.

Certain private nonprofit organizations may also be eligible for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Irene in the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem.

In a statement, White House officials said federal funding would also be available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide to state and eligible local governments.

Swollen rivers throughout northern New Jersey, including the Passaic, Ramapo, Rahway and Pequannock, have reached or surpassed record flood levels since the storm hit over the weekend, authorities said.