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At the direction of President Barack Obama, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to coordinate federal government assistance - including Department of Defense-provided aid to support states in response and recovery of Hurricane Sandy, according to a FEMA news release issued Wednesday.

The president continues to direct FEMA Administrator William Craig Fugate to ensure that federal partners continue to bring all available resources to bear to support state, local, territorial and tribal communities in Hurricane Sandy-affected areas, the release said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states who've been affected by this storm. We encourage individuals to continue to follow the direction of local officials so that first responders can focus on life saving efforts,” Fugate said in the FEMA release. "FEMA continues to provide the full support of the federal government for the life-saving and life-sustaining activities such as search and rescue, power restoration and debris removal that remains the top priorities of state, tribal and local governments.”

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta has directed that the Department of Defense provide any available disaster response resources requested by FEMA and state authorities as states throughout the Northeast begin to recover from Hurricane Sandy, the FEMA release said.

DOD continues to coordinate with FEMA, U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau on providing lifesaving and life sustaining assets to FEMA and governors, as requested, the release said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond H. LaHood announced in a DOT release issued Wednesday that he is making $13 million in quick-release emergency relief funds immediately available to New York and Rhode Island to help begin repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, while assessments continue throughout the Northeast to determine the full extent of the damage.

Also, the president authorized an emergency declaration for New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia, the FEMA release said. The president also has authorized emergency declarations for Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The president's actions, the release said, authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to provide assistance for required emergency measures, directly to state, tribal and local governments, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety.

Last night, the president declared major disasters for New York and New Jersey, making disaster assistance available to those in areas hardest-hit by the storm, according to the FEMA release.

Currently, more than 1,900 FEMA personnel are working to support Hurricane Sandy disaster response and recovery operations, including search and rescue, situational awareness, communications and logistical support, according to the FEMA release. In addition, 28 teams comprised of 294 FEMA Corps members are onsite to provide aid and support.

Nine federal urban search-and-rescue task forces have been staged along the East Coast and are deploying into affected areas as needed, and requested by impacted states, according to the FEMA release. An additional six federal urban search-and-rescue task forces have been placed on alert for potential activation if required. Fourteen Incident Management Assistance Teams and 12 liaison officers are positioned in affected states along the East Coast to support preparedness activities and ensure there are no unmet needs.

Mobile Emergency Response Support personnel and teams have been deployed to support the states with secure and non-secure voice, video, and information services, operations, and logistics support to state response operations as well as with any potential requests for assistance, the FEMA release said. Ten FEMA disability integration advisors are also deployed to advise emergency management on alert and warning, evacuation, and sheltering needs.

At all times FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories, including Atlanta, Ga. and Frederick, Md., if needed and requested, according to the FEMA release. FEMA distribution centers have an overall inventory of more than five million liters of water, three million meals, 900,000 blankets and 100,000 cots.

FEMA and the Department of Defense established Incident Support Bases in Westover, Mass., and Lakehurst, N.J., to pre-position supplies, including water, meals, blankets and other resources closer to potentially impacted areas, should they be needed and requested by states, according to the FEMA release. FEMA has moved roughly 245,000 liters of water, more than 174,000 meals and thousands of blankets and cots to Westover Air Reserve Base; and more than 400,000 liters of water and more than 390,000 meals and thousands of cots to Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J., and more commodities are en route, as weather conditions permit.

States, localities and the American Red Cross continue to operate emergency shelters along the East Coast. In addition, the following federal activities are also being coordinated in support of Hurricane Sandy response and recovery efforts, according to the FEMA release:

There are now more than 7,400 National Guard forces on duty supporting the governors of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maryland. These forces are providing assistance to local first responders and FEMA by providing assistance at evacuation shelters, conducting route clearance and search-and-rescue missions, and delivering of essential equipment and supplies.

The U.S. Coast Guard has teams along the East Coast to conduct search-and-rescue missions, respond to and mitigate threats to public health and the environment, and it continues to assess and advise status of ports along the East Coast.

States, localities and the Red Cross have emergency shelters open in many affected communities. To find a shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Even as the storm begins to clear impacted areas, there will be many challenges to staying safe while making repairs and cleaning up debris after a storm, according to the FEMA news release. Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded areas. FEMA strongly urges the public to listen to and follow the instructions of local officials.