Superstorm Sandy: New York declared 'major disaster'

Wall Street closed, subways flooded, millions without power while Obama and Romney put campaigning on hold

LAST UPDATED AT 11:45 ON Tue 30 Oct 2012

NEW YORK STATE has been declared a “major disaster” by President Barack Obama to unlock federal funding for repairs following a deadly storm. Seven million Americans living on the northern Atlantic coast are without power this morning and much of New York City is underwater after the surge produced by hurricane-turned-superstorm Sandy reached 13.88ft at its peak, according to an overnight tweet from Mayor Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Here is a summary of the situation:

  • VICTIMS: The death toll for the US and Canada stood at 16 at 7.30 am UK time this morning, but that figure is rising by the minute. Among the victims reported so far are a woman in the New York borough of Queens who stepped into an electrified puddle of water and a woman in Toronto killed by flying debris.
  • BURST LEVEE: An entire borough of northern New Jersey is under water after a levee broke. Reuters reports that the towns of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt have been inundated after the swollen Hackensack River broke its banks. Bergen County chief of staff Jeanne Baratta told CNN: "Moonachie has been devastated. Every street has got four or five feet of water on it." There are no reports of fatalities as yet.
  • WALL STREET: New York's financial district was due to close again today and there are fears it will remain closed on Wednesday because of the potential damage to infrastructure, the Financial Times reports. It's the longest shutdown since 9/11 and will cost the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and Chicago Board Options Exchange upwards of $1m per day in lost net trading revenues.
  • EVACUATIONS: Among those who had to be evacuated as floodwaters rose overnight were all the in-patients at the NYU Langone Medical Center on Manhattan's Lower East Side after the back-up power system failed. Ambulances transported 215 patients through the flooded streets to nearby hospitals, including Sloan Kettering and Mt Sinai.
  • HERITAGE: It's too early to count the cost of the damage but one local disaster is the famous replica of Captain Bligh's sailing ship HMS Bounty, built for the 1962 Marlon Brando film Mutiny on the Bounty, which sank in high seas off the coast of North Carolina. As The Week reports elsewhere, 14 crew members were rescued by helicopter but one female crew member died and the captain is missing.
  • ELECTION CAMPAIGN: President Obama cut short a campaigning trip to Florida to return to Washington to manage storm response. Republican Mitt Romney cancelled all campaigning for yesterday and today. Political pundits have mixed views on how the storm could affect voting.
  • TRAVELERS: Fifty-nine transAtlantic flights to and from Heathrow were cancelled yesterday and many scheduled services will be grounded again today. BA hopes to fly to Boston, Toronto and Montreal today, but flights to and from New York, Newark, Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia are unlikely to leave the ground. The Guardian has more details on cancelled flights.
  • SNOW: Unusual climatic conditions have produced heavy snow falls in West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. The Wall Street Journal reports that precipitation from Sandy collided with cold air from the west to produce the snow.

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