Monster storm hits US

NEW JERSEY - Millions of people awoke on Tuesday to scenes of destruction wrought by monster storm Sandy after it smashed into the eastern United States, cutting power to swathes of the nation’s most densely populated region, swamping New York’s subway system and submerging streets in Manhattan’s financial district.

At least 15 people were reported killed along the eastern seaboard by Sandy, one of the biggest storms to ever hit the country, which dropped just below hurricane status before making landfall on Monday night in New Jersey.

The storm interrupted the presidential campaign a week before Election Day — posing both risks and opportunities for President Barack Obama as he seeks a second term in a tight race — and closed US financial markets for a second day.

As a weakened but still massive storm system continued its trek inland, more than one million people in a dozen states were under orders to evacuate. Sandy left behind a trail of damage — homes underwater, trees toppled and power lines downed — caused by epic flooding and fierce winds all along the Atlantic coast.

In the storm’s wake, Obama issued federal emergency decrees for New York and New Jersey, declaring that “major disasters” existed in both states. One disaster-forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured.

“It’s total devastation down there, there are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean,” said evacuee Peter Sandomeno, one of the owners of the Broadway Court Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. “That’s the worst storm I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been there for 11 years.”

Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-ranging winds, brought a record storm surge of almost 14 feet (4,2 metres) to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet (three metres) during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.

Water poured into the subway system and tunnels that course under the city, raising concerns that the world’s financial capital could be hobbled for days.

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