More than 30 deaths, millions without power, in Sandy's wake

More than 30 deaths, millions without power, in Sandy's wake

People throughout the north-east United States were dealing Tuesday with the aftermath of Sandy, an unprecedented superstorm that left more than 30 dead and carved a wide swath of damage across a multistate region, dpa reported.

Up to 8 million households were without power from South Carolina to Maine and west to Ohio. Officials across the region reported a total of 33 deaths, while transportation systems in New York and Washington and major international airports were closed.

The storm, which formed as a hurricane last week and crashed through Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas, collided over the mid-Atlantic region with another weather front that approached from the north-west, creating the unprecedented conditions.

The state of New Jersey, where Sandy punched ashore on Monday night, was badly affected by flooding and power outages Tuesday morning. Parts of the state received nearly 30 centimeters of rainfall.

"The level of devastation on the Jersey Shore is unthinkable," said Governor Chris Christie. The gambling paradise of Atlantic City - flooded and without power - was "completely unsafe," Christie added at a news conference.

He was on his way to view the destruction, but was frustrated because his helicopter couldn't land on the barrier islands. In addition to the flooding there was beach erosion, homes were knocked off their foundations and amusement park rides pushed into the sea. More 5,500 people were in shelters amid forced evacuations.

The combined number of residences without power in New Jersey and New York was at least 3 million, power companies reported.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the destruction caused by Sandy would "going to be felt for quite some time." The waterlogged subway system - the largest in the US - could remain closed for at least four or five days as a result of heavy flooding, he said at a news conference.

One photograph showed water up to the platform at a subway station on 86th Street in Manhattan.

People trying to access the city by car also faced hurdles. The tunnels that link the city to New Jersey were closed on Monday, and only the Lincoln Tunnel was reopened on Tuesday. Grand Central and Penn stations, two major transportation hubs used daily by millions of people, were closed. Most bridges were open again.

At least 10 deaths occurred in New York City due to Sandy, including people who had been crushed by falling trees or electrocuted by downed powerlines. Bloomberg said he expected the number of storm-related deaths to rise. He also described a fire in Queens, the easternmost borough of New York City, in which 80 homes were destroyed. It was one of 23 fires across the city.

There were 76 shelters open in the city for hundreds of thousands of people forced out of their homes. Crews were working to clear streets and make sure bridges were safe, Bloomberg said, adding that the best thing New Yorkers could do to help with getting the city back to normal was stay home.

The US stock exchanges in New York remained closed for a second day on Tuesday - the market's first two-day weather shut-down since 1888. The United Nations also remained closed for a second day.

The storm's impact on air travel was extensive. Nearly 14,000 flights were cancelled as airlines flew jets away from airplanes to limit damage to their fleets.

In Washington, the underground system was closed for a second day, the federal government was shut down, schools were closed and events canceled.

US President Barack Obama planned to stay at the White House Tuesday. He declared a "major disaster" in New York and New Jersey as damage assessments began, the White House said. The move makes federal government funds available for businesses and residents in New York City, Atlantic City and surrounding areas to help with repairs, property losses and other issues.

Obama had already issued emergency declarations for other states in the path of the storm, including West Virginia, where up to a metre of snow had fallen as a result of the storm.

Sandy was downgraded from a hurricane to post-tropical cyclone Monday night. Beyond New York and New Jersey there was damage reported in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut.

The storm was expected to steadily weaken and moved into Canada on Wednesday. At 11 am Tuesday (1600 GMT) it was over Pennsylvania about 235 kilometres west of Philadelphia, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained winds were 72 kilometers per hour (kph) and was moving north-west at 16 kph.

The National Hurricane Center said the mountains of West Virginia could experience blizzard conditions, with some areas seeing up to 100 centimeters of snow by Wednesday night.

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