NEW YORK – The misery of superstorm Sandy’s devastation grew yesterday as millions along the United States East Coast faced life without power or mass transit for days, and huge swaths of New York City remained eerily quiet.
The United States death toll climbed to 39 by yesterday evening, 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 United States transit system was running again.
“This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced,” he 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 New Jersey governor 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 are 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 United States 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.
Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Centre, 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. 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.
Around midday, Sandy was about 120 miles 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 last night.
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 America, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.
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 Governor Christie in viewing the damage in New Jersey.
Obama, speaking during a stop yesterday at Red Cross headquarters, called the storm “heartbreaking for the nation”. (AP)