31 Oct 2012

US states begin clean-up after super-storm

11:26 pm on 31 October 2012

The north-east coast of the United States is beginning a massive clear-up after the biggest storm to hit the area for decades caused widespread damage across several states.

At least 40 people have been killed, millions are without power and transport across the north-eastern US has been severely disrupted as storm Sandy heads north for Canada.

In New York City, 18 people have been killed and the public transport system remains closed until further notice. More than 18,000 flights are estimated to have been cancelled, the BBC reports.

President Barack Obama is expected to tour New Jersey, one of the worst-affected states, on Wednesday. The super-storm has weakened, but experts warn that clearing up will take a considerable time.

Sandy made landfall about 8pm on Monday (local time) near Atlantic City in New Jersey, with winds of 129km/h. Much of the casino resort was under water and 30,000 residents had to be evacuated.

Earlier, Sandy killed more than 60 people as it hit the Caribbean as a hurricane. It brought a record storm surge of almost 4.2 metres to central Manhattan, well above the previous record of three metres during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.

The storm was causing heavy snowfalls over the Appalachian mountains on Tuesday afternoon (local time). It was expected to turn towards western New York state during the evening before moving into Canada on Wednesday, the forecaster said.

At least eight million homes and businesses are without power because of the storm, the US Department of Energy says.

The New York Stock Exchange says it will re-open on Wednesday after two days' closure, as will the Nasdaq exchange. The last time the stock exchange shut down for two days was in 1888.

The cost of clearing up after the storm is likely to run to $US 30 billion to $US40 billion, the BBC reports.

Major disaster declared in New York State

A major disaster has been declared in New York State. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said 2.4 million households had been affected - double the number hit by Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

President Barack Obama also declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Public transport is suspended in Washington DC, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.

New York's subway system sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history, Joseph Lhota, head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), said. Subway tunnels were flooded and electrical equipment will have to be cleaned before the network can re-open.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was "no timeline" for when the subway would restart, but he hoped buses could begin running again on Wednesday. All New York's major airports are closed as their runways are flooded.

Consolidated Edison said an explosion at a sub-station, probably caused by flooding or flying

debris, blacked out much of lower Manhattan.

The company said about 500,000 homes in Manhattan were without power on Tuesday. It is likely to be two or three days before power is restored to most of the city.

Reminder of Christchurch

A New Zealand woman in Brooklyn, New York, says the storm scenes from Sandy remind her of Christchurch.

Cheryl Sucher, of Hawke's Bay, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme from Brooklyn that a building in Chelsea that lost its entire front wall reminds her of damage in the Christchurch earthquake when the interior of houses could be seen.

Another thing reminding her of Christchurch was people saying the massive rebuild needed might stimulate the economy.