Sandy leaves trail of devastation, kills 33 on US East coast



New York: Megastorm Sandy hit the US East coast with fierce force Tuesday, claiming at least 33 lives across seven states, plunging millions of homes into darkness and leaving the New York Stock Exchange shut for two straight days for the first time since 1888.

More than 7.5 billion people are believed to be without electricity since last night across the eastern coast that bore the brunt of the storm's fury.

One of the biggest storms to hit the US, Sandy brought strong winds and heavy rains and left at least 10 people dead in New York itself.

The trail of destruction left by the monster storm prompted President Barack Obama to declare it a "major disaster" in New York and New Jersey.

According to Fox news, at least 33 people had died of consequences from the storm.

During an emergency meeting, Obama told his team that their top priority is to make sure all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible. He also expressed sorrow over the deaths.

"During the briefing, the president expressed his concern for those impacted by the storm, as well as the heroic first responders who are selflessly putting themselves in harm's way to protect members of their communities," the White House said in a statement.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said at least 10 people were killed as the city stood paralysed by the monster storm. He said this the storm may be the "worst" the New York city has ever experienced. "The impacts will be felt for some time," he said.

New York and New Jersey combined together has one of the largest concentrations of Indian-Americans in the US. Quite a number of Indian-Americans, particularly in New Jersey, had to leave their homes and had to be evacuated after their houses were flooded.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie it was a devastating sight. "It is beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he told a news conference.

Sandy slammed the coastline of New Jersey with 80 mph winds pushing seawater up by unprecedented 13-feet in New York City, and bringing the presidential campaign to a halt a week before the November 6 polls.

Obama, who called off his campaigning activities to personally oversee the preparedness to the approaching megastorm, signed 'major disaster' declarations. Republican challenger Mitt Romney also cancelled his campaign activities.

Stock trading was closed in the US for a second day today ? the first time the New York Stock Exchange remained closed for two consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard struck the city.

Storm damage was projected at USD 10 billion to USD 20 billion, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in US history. The 33 deaths were reported from across seven states -- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. New York City, which saw a four-metre storm surge, expects thwe toll to rise, said Mayor Bloomberg.

"In addition to the lives we lost, the damage we suffered across the city is clearly extensive and it will not be repaired overnight," Bloomberg told reporters. "This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," he said.

All most all the major airports in region including the John F Kennedy airport in New York were shut down with more than 15,000 flights cancelled, which has also impacted the Air India flights coming from India.

The New York Governor said that the John F Kennedy airport is expected to open tomorrow.

According to local authorities, about 60 people were stranded on New York's Fire Island with contaminated water and no electricity after they did not obey mandatory evacuation orders over the weekend.

Trading at the New York Stock Exchange has been closed for Tuesday after storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. In Staten Island, a large tanker ship ran aground.

PTI