A trail of death and destruction
l new york
The misery of superstorm Sandy's devastation grew yesterday as millions along the US East Coast faced life without power or mass transit for days, and huge swathes of New York City remained eerily quiet. The US death toll climbed to 48, many of the victims killed by falling trees, and rescue work continued.
The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with hurricane force cut power to more than 8.2 million across the East and put the presidential campaign on hold just one week before Election Day.
New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart closed for a second day. The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of the city's subway system, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the biggest US transit system was running again.
"This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," Bloomberg said.
But the full extent of the damage in New Jersey was being revealed as morning arrived. Emergency crews fanned out to rescue hundreds.
A hoarse-voiced New Jersey Gov Chris Christie gave bleak news at a morning news conference: Seaside rail lines washed away. No safe place on the state's barrier islands for him to land. Parts of the coast still under water.
"It is beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he said. "It is a devastating sight right now."
The death toll from Sandy in the US included several killed by falling trees. Sandy killed ten people in New York City. It also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.
Airlines cancelled more than 15,000 flights. New York City's three major airports remained closed.
Some bridges into the city reopened at midday, but most major tunnels and bridges remained closed, as were schools and Broadway theatres.
The storm sent a nearly 14-foot (4.27-metre) surge of seawater, a record, coursing over Lower Manhattan's seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. The water inundated tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 storeys above Midtown. A large tanker ship ran aground on the city's Staten Island.
Around midday, Sandy was about 120 miles (190 kms) east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, pushing westward with winds of 45 mph (72 kph), and was expected to make a turn into New York State on last night. Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Sandy will end up causing about US$20 billion in property damage and US$10 billion to US$30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the US, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.
US President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area. He suspended campaigning for a third day today, and planned to join Christie in viewing the damage in New Jersey.
Obama, speaking during a stop yesterday at Red Cross headquarters, warned the public that the massive storm that struck the East Coast "is not yet over". He said there were still risks of flooding and downed power lines. He called the storm "heartbreaking for the nation".
The President offered his thoughts and prayers to those affected and told them "America is with you". He said he also told government officials co-ordinating the response that there was "no excuse for inaction".
And he said he told governors in affected areas that if they get no for an answer, "they can call me personally at the White House".
Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the Blizzard of 1888. The NYSE said it will reopen today.
A fire raged in a neighbourhood yesterday morning in the borough of Queens, near the Atlantic Ocean, with 80 to 100 homes destroyed but no deaths reported.
"This will be one for the record books," said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.
In New Jersey, where the superstorm came ashore, Sandy cut off barrier islands, swept houses from their foundations and washed amusement pier rides into the ocean. It also wrecked several boardwalks up and down the coast, tearing away a section of Atlantic City's world-famous promenade. Atlantic City's 12 waterfront casinos came through largely unscathed.
A huge swell of water swept over the small town of Moonachie, and authorities struggled to rescue about 800 people, some of them living in a trailer park. Police and fire officials used boats to try to reach the stranded.
Curiosity turned to concern overnight as New York City residents watched whole neighbourhoods disappear into darkness as power was cut. The World Trade Center site was a glowing ghost near the tip of Lower Manhattan. Residents reported seeing no lights but the strobes of emergency vehicles and the glimpses of flashlights in nearby apartments. Lobbies were flooded, cars floated and people started to worry about food. See Page 33