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Northeast reels as Sandy wreaks widespread damage

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-10-31

At least 45 people were killed and more than eight million left without power as superstorm Sandy, one of the worst natural disasters in US history, battered the East Coast late on Monday, causing tens of billions of dollars in damage.

Millions of people were left reeling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy on Wednesday as New York City and a wide swathe of the eastern United States struggled with epic flooding and massive power outages.

The death toll climbed to at least 45 in the US and Canada, days after killing at least 69 people as it tore through the Caribbean before hitting the US Eastern Seaboard.

Sandy crashed ashore with hurricane-force winds in New Jersey on Monday night. It was the biggest storm to hit the country in generations, swamping large parts of New York’s subway system and Manhattan’s Wall Street district.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed for two consecutive days – the first time bad weather shut one of the world’s busiest trading institutions since 1888 – although officials said it would reopen on Wednesday.

Sandy also forced the shutting-down of three nuclear plants, two in New York State and one in New Jersey, although operators stressed that there was no risk to the public.

Airports in New York remained closed on Tuesday, with Rob Maruster, CEO of New York-based airline JetBlue, telling CBS: "It will probably take until the weekend for things to return to normal."

Presidential campaign on hold

The storm also interrupted the presidential campaign with just one week to go before Election Day, giving President Barack Obama an opportunity to look presidential as he oversaw the government’s response.

He even drew praise from New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, who has been a strong supporter of Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney.

“The president has been all over this, he deserves great credit,” he said. “He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it.

"It's been very good working with the president, and his administration has been coordinating with us great – it's been wonderful."

Obama issued federal emergency decrees for New York and New Jersey, declaring “major disasters” in both states.

Estimates for the cost of the storm could be up to $20 billion, although economists have calculated that it could reach $50 billion with lost business taken into account.

One of the largest storms ever seen

All along the East Coast, residents and business owners awoke to scenes of destruction.

Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-ranging winds, brought a record storm surge of 4.2 metres to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 3 metres in 1960.

Water poured into the subway tunnels that course under the city, the country’s financial capital.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s subway system would probably remain closed for four or five days.

The US Department of Energy said that more than 8 million homes and businesses in several states were without electricity.

At its peak, the storm’s wind field stretched from North Carolina north to the Canadian border and from West Virginia to a point in the Atlantic Ocean halfway to Bermuda, easily one of the largest ever seen, the US hurricane center said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-10-30

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