16 killed as Sandy smashes into New York, New Jersey (Third Lead)

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 30, 2012 13:00 hrs

Washington/New York, Oct 30 (IANS) Smashing ashore, superstorm Sandy triggered floods, fires and devastation on the US East Coast, killing at least 16 people in seven states and leaving some 7.5 million people without power Tuesday.

New York and New Jersey were badly hit as Hurricane Sandy, now downgraded to a storm, flooded homes and the subway system of America's financial centre, but Washington was largely spared of destruction.

The storm led to power failures in at least 17 states, including more than a million customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and about 660,000 in New York City, according to the New York Times.

Roughly a quarter of a million customers lost power in Manhattan alone after a fiery explosion at a substation on East 14th Street led to what the city power utility officials called the "the largest storm-related outage in our history".

The storm was the most destructive in the 108-year history of New York City's subway system, Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was quoted as saying.

"We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery," he said, but did not provide a timetable for restoring transit service to a paralysed city.

Subways were shut down from Boston to Washington, as were Amtrak and the commuter rail lines. About 1,000 flights were cancelled at each of the three major airports in the New York City area.

Philadelphia International Airport had 1,200 cancelled flights, according to FlightAware, a data provider in Houston. And late Monday night, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said cabs had been instructed to get off New York City roads.

In New Jersey, more than two million customers were without power as of 1.30 a.m. Tuesday, and in Connecticut nearly 500,000.

The Washington area largely escaped the devastation with widespread but not overwhelming power breakdowns, and some flooding and downed trees.

The National Weather Service projected diminished rainfall in many areas, but schools, transit and government remained shut down in most cities.

President Barack Obama signed federal emergency declarations for 10 states and the District of Columbia, permitting state officials to begin making requests for federal assistance, including manpower and equipment.

The president also cancelled campaign plans for Monday and Tuesday so he could remain at the White House and oversee the federal response to the storm. Republican challenger Mitt Romney also shelved most of his campaign plans.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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