People salvage food from bags thrown out of a flooded store in the Coney Island area of the Brooklyn borough of New York (Reuters)

An investigation on the alleged overinflated prices New York customers are dealing with in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy has been opened by the state Attorney General.

According to US laws, during natural disasters price gouging on essential goods like food, water, gas, is illegal.

"Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"We are actively investigating hundreds of complaints we've received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy, and will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives."

The complaints mainly regarding high prices applied to gasoline, Schneiderman said, however gouging on emergency supplies like generators, hotel rooms, food and water was also reported.

"Our office is taking every complaint seriously. While most retailers understand that customers are also neighbours, and would never think of taking advantage of New Yorkers during such disruptive times, emergency circumstances always require an extra sense of vigilance," Schneiderman said.

Power and fuel shortages have been badly affecting the US East Coast, following the devastation caused by Frankenstorm.

In New York City alone More than 130,000 residents have not got their power supply back yet and 40,000 people need of housing.

Last week police was called in to patrol the few gas stations which were still operational, as hundreds of people braved freezing temperatures to fill cars and jerry cans, resulting in huge queues and widespread consternation.

Residents line up for gasoline at a temporary fueling station in the Staten Island Borough of New York (Reuters0