A record storm surge from Hurricane Sandy sent floodwaters pouring into Lower Manhattan on Monday night as parts of New York City were plunged into darkness by widespread power outages, reports Reuters.
The death toll from Hurricane Sandy rose to 12 in America and one in Canada as 6 million homes were plunged into darkness and swathes of the US east coast were swamped by unprecedented floods.
Sandy made landfall in New Jersey at 8pm local time (midnight GMT), leaving Atlantic City underwater, and hurling a record-breaking 13-foot wall of seawater at New York City.
Water sloshed into Manhattan from three sides, surging between skyscrapers in the financial district and pouring in to road and subway tunnels. A spectacular explosion occurred at a power sub-station in Manhattan and 250,000 people there were plunged into darkness.
“Lower Manhattan is being covered by seawater. I am not exaggerating. Sea water is rushing into the Battery Tunnel,” said Howard Glaser, director of operations for the New York state government.
New York University hospital lost backup power and had to be evacuated, and a huge partially collapsed crane continued to dangle precariously from a Manhattan skyscraper, reports The Telegraph.
Several buildings in Queens went on fire and firefighters used boats to rescue people. On coastal Long Island neighbourhoods were under water, and police car was lost rescuing 14 people from the popular resort Fire Island.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was a “once in a long time storm,” and that the public was making 10,000 emergency 911 calls every 30 minutes.
The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, in Ocean County just north of Atlantic City, New Jersey, declared an alert as water passed a minimum level, but no safety concerns were reported, the US nuclear regulator said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said: “Water level is rising in the intake structure due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge.”
Cities along the east coast from Boston and New York down to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington are expected to remain partially paralysed on Tuesday as Sandy halts transport services.
Coastal areas of Maryland, Delaware and Massachusetts also saw widespread flooding and stranded residents were carried to safety in wooden boats.
The full extent of the damage was unlikely to become known until day break as the storm headed into Pennsylvania with winds of up to 75 mph.
Thirteen deaths occurred in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police in Toronto said a woman was killed by a falling sign as high winds closed in on Canada’s largest city.
Just before it hit land the status of the storm was changed from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.
The new system was formed by Hurricane Sandy converging with a cold weather system that turned into a “superstorm,” forecasters said.
They said it would bring 20ft waves bashing into the Chicago lakefront and up to 3 feet of snow in West Virginia.
Sandy was expected to cause up to $20 billion in damage, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in US history.
The gigantic storm completely overshadowed the US election race, forcing a halt to campaigning just a week before Americans are due to go to the polls.