Prince Harry tours storm-damaged NJ shore

Britain's Prince Harry toured two New Jersey shore communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy, shaking hands with emergency personnel and construction workers before spending Tuesday afternoon in New York City at events promoting tourism and philanthropy.

In Seaside Heights, where the MTV reality show Jersey Shore was taped, Harry and his tour guide, Gov. Chris Christie, also took part in a game of chance along the boardwalk, throwing perforated plastic balls into holes for prizes, which they handed over to children.

The prince suggested to a girl partnered with him, Allie Cirigliano, 7, of Middletown, that she pick a blue penguin as a prize. But she didn't want it. "Don't listen to me," he said with a laugh. She chose a Hello Kitty stuffed doll instead.

The two came within sight of a roller coaster that the storm sent plunging into the Atlantic Ocean, which became a defining image of the storm that struck in late October. A crane later began tearing apart the remnants of the Jet Star Roller Coaster, which blew off an amusement pier.

In both Seaside Heights and Mantoloking 10 miles north, his first stop, the prince shook hands with police, fire and other emergency personnel racing to get the resort towns ready for the summer. Harry also greeted construction workers who have been working on rebuilding Seaside Heights' famous boardwalk, now about two-thirds complete.

The prince said he was impressed to see New Jersey's recovery effort, "everyone getting together and making things right."

At both his New Jersey stops, girls and young women jostled for position to get a good look at the prince, take pictures and fantasise about marriage proposals.

"He is so cute. He came in with that white shirt and red hair, and he just exceeded all my expectations," said Brianna Marchal, 19, of Manahawkin, during his second stop. "The crowd literally grew three inches when he came by because everyone was on their tip toes, trying to get a picture. We had four devices going at the same time, trying to get pictures of him."

Her sister, Taylor, 21, said she has been following Harry for years.

"It's the whole fairy tale thing," she said. "He's a real live prince, here in New Jersey. We both want to marry him."

The motorcade carrying the prince and Christie arrived at about 10:15 a.m. in Mantoloking, where some residents were flying Union Jack flags and one handwritten sign read: "Prince Harry please come back when we're restored."

Harry was presented with a Mantoloking Police baseball cap.

Christie showed Harry a spot where the Atlantic Ocean had cut Mantoloking in half, creating a channel to the back bay and taking out a bridge and houses. The channel has since been filled in.

"This used to be a house?" Harry asked at one barren spot.

Every one of the wealthy town's 521 homes was damaged or destroyed by Sandy. Scores remain as piles of rubble.

Among those waiting for Harry were members of the Bowden family, four siblings who shared a summer house that was destroyed by the storm.

Camilla Bowden, 17, said she had visited London and studied royal history but came to see Harry for one reason: "'cause he's my future husband."

"We appreciate Harry showing care and support during such a difficult time for our family and community," said her aunt, Becky Guenther.

Christie posted on his Twitter account that he greeted Harry in Sea Girt, where the prince arrived by helicopter, "the best way I know how; with his own Royal Fleece." Christie wore a blue fleece jacket everywhere he went in the weeks after Sandy.

The prince spent about a half hour each in the two shore towns.

Along the route, signs were posted welcoming Harry, including one on a laundry basket attached to a pole. As the motorcade passed Lavalette Elementary School, dozens of schoolchildren stood on the front sidewalk, waving American and British flags.

From Seaside Heights, the prince headed New York City, where he stepped aboard a red double-decker bus with British Prime Minister David Cameron as part of a campaign to promote England as a tourist destination and U.S. business partner.

Cameron spent the morning in Boston, where he visited a memorial to the marathon bombing victims.

Later, Prince Harry was scheduled to attend an event promoting a community baseball program involving a new partnership with the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

The foundation bills itself as the culmination of the charity lives of Prince Harry and his brother and sister-in-law, Prince William and Kate. On Tuesday evening (local time), the prince is the honored guest at a Manhattan fundraiser for the foundation.

Before leaving the country, Prince Harry travels Wednesday to Greenwich, Conn., to captain a polo team as part of the Sentebale Polo Cup.

The prince began a weeklong visit to the U.S. on May 9.

New Jersey sustained about $37 billion worth of damage from the storm. Mantoloking and Seaside Heights took the worst pummeling by Sandy's storm surge. About 360,000 homes or apartment units in New Jersey were damaged by the storm.

- AP

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