By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) - New York state and New Jersey need at least $71.3 billion to recover from the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy and prevent similar damage from future storms, according to their latest estimates.
The total, which could grow, came as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday the state will need $41.9 billion, including $32.8 billion to repair and restore damaged housing, parks and infrastructure and to cover lost revenue and other expenses. The figure also includes $9.1 billion to mitigate potential damage from future severe weather events, Cuomo said.
Neighboring New Jersey, which saw massive damage to its transit system and coastline, suffered at least $29.4 billion in overall losses, according to a preliminary analysis released by Governor Chris Christie's office Friday. The preliminary cost estimate includes federal aid New Jersey has received so far.
By some measures, Sandy was worse than Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which tore into the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, Cuomo said.
Sandy destroyed 305,000 houses in New York state - a still provisional number that's likely to grow - compared to the 214,700 destroyed in Louisiana by Katrina and Rita.
Sandy also caused nearly 2.2 million power outages at its peak in the state, compared to 800,000 from Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, and impacted 265,300 businesses compared to 18,700, Cuomo said.
While Sandy may have damaged more homes and businesses, Katrina took a far greater toll on human lives, killing more than 1,800 people directly or indirectly. Sandy, by comparison, is believed to have killed at least 121 people.
"Hurricane Katrina got a lot of notoriety for the way government handled -- or mishandled, depending on your point of view -- the situation," Cuomo said at a press conference.
But considering the dense population of the area Sandy impacted and costs to the economy, housing, and businesses, the damage done "was much larger in Hurricane Sandy than in Hurricane Katrina, and that puts this entire conversation, I believe, in focus," Cuomo said.
Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on October 29. It blasted through the Northeastern U.S., devastating homes, forcing evacuations, crippling power systems and shutting down New York City's subway system for days.
TAKING SANDY COSTS TO CONGRESS
The total cost to the region is still not known as estimates of the damage, as well as future repair and prevention costs, continue to come in from states, cities and counties.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday he will ask Congress for $9.8 billion to pay for Sandy costs not covered by insurance or other federal funds.
In a letter to New York's congressional delegation, Bloomberg said public, private and indirect losses to the city from the devastating late-October storm stood at $19 billion.
Of that, private insurance is expected to cover $3.8 billion, with Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements to cover at least an additional $5.4 billion, Bloomberg said in a statement.
The city still will need the additional $9.8 billion to help pay for costs that FEMA does not cover, like hazard mitigation, long-term housing, shoreline restoration and protection efforts, he said.
Whatever the final tally, officials are beginning to pressure Congress for federal assistance.
Cuomo met on Monday with the state's Congressional delegation and county officials. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement that New York's Congressional delegation will push hard for additional federal funding.
"The federal government has a clear responsibility to commit all of the necessary resources to help us rebuild," she said.
Getting federal funds could be a tough fight, because of pressure on lawmakers to cut spending and raise taxes in order to shrink the federal deficit.
"This will be an effort that lasts not weeks, but many months, and we will not rest until the federal response meets New York's deep and extensive needs," said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer in a statement.
Cuomo's earlier estimates had pegged the total amount of damages for the region at $50 billion, with about $33 billion of that incurred in New York state.
In New York City, Bloomberg said on Monday that the city had about $4.8 billion of uninsured private losses, $3.8 billion of insured private losses, and $4.5 billion in losses to city agencies.
Reconstructing the city's damaged roads alone could cost nearly $800 million, Bloomberg said. New York City, a financial and tourism center, also lost about $5.7 billion in gross city product, he said.
Included in Cuomo's nearly $9.1 billion of mitigation costs are what he called "common sense" actions, like flood protection for the World Trade center site, roads, subway tunnels and sewage treatment plants, as well as power generators for the region's fuel supply system and backup power for health care facilities.
"We will see new projects," said Mysore Nagaraja, former president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Capital Construction Co.
"In order to justify whatever money they finally end up getting, they have to come up with this list of projects that need to be done so that the future Sandy will not have the impact it had this time," he said.
Nagaraja is currently chairman of Spartan Solutions LLC, an infrastructure consulting firm.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Bill Trott and Phil Berlowitz)