Irene damage could be 'tens of billions': US guv

Irene damage could be `tens of billions`: US guv New York: The damage from Hurricane Irene to the already battered US economy could reach tens of billions of dollars, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned today.

Christie gave his assessment, speaking on NBC news, as Irene caused widespread flooding and structural damage across a vast swath of the eastern US seaboard, from North Carolina to New York.

"I've got to imagine the damage estimates will be in the billions of dollars if not the tens of billions of dollars," said Christie, whose state has a long ocean coastline and was particularly badly hit.

Irene weakened to tropical storm status today as it crashed into New York City, the National Hurricane Center said, but the still powerful storm was flooding parts of lower Manhattan.

Experts said the financial toll would be much higher if, as transpired, there was a direct hit on New York, the US financial capital and largest city with nearly 19 million people living in its metropolitan area.

Kinetic Analysis Corp, a company that does computer modelling of predicted storm damage, predicted Friday that Irene would cause USD 5-10 billion in damages, based on the latest available weather data.

Losses could include damage to flooded buildings, business interruptions and cleanup costs picked by the government, said Chuck Watson, the company's director of research and development.

Reporting today, the company said losses in North and South Carolina, the first states hit as Irene made landfall on Friday, are expected to range between USD 200 million and USD 400 million.

The costliest hurricane in US history was Katrina, which flooded New Orleans in 2005 and is estimated to have caused more than USD 100 billion in losses.