US East Coast clobbered

Water covers approach to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

NEW YORK — US President Barack Obama has declared a “major disaster” in New York state after storm Sandy smashed into the US East Coast, causing flooding and cutting power to millions.

A record four metre tidal surge sent seawater cascading into large parts of New York City’s subway system.

Across the city, a power sub-station exploded, a hospital was evacuated and fire destroyed 50 homes.

At least 29 people are reported dead across several states.

In northern New Jersey, a rescue operation is reported to be under way after a levee broke and flooded the town of Moonachie.

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.”

An estimated 50 million people could be affected by the storm, with up to a million ordered to evacuate homes.

Sandy, now downgraded from a hurricane but described as a “super-storm”, is churning north heading for Canada.

Over the past week Sandy has killed more than 80 people as it carved a path of destruction through the Caribbean.

The storm made landfall close to Atlantic City in New Jersey at about midnight GMT, with winds of more than 129km/h.

It collided with cold weather fronts from the west and north to create what some forecasters have dubbed a “Frankenstorm”.

Much of Atlantic City was under water and 30,000 residents were evacuated.

In New York City, parts of Lower Manhattan were quickly inundated as the Hudson and East rivers overflowed. Seawater poured into road tunnels and the subway system. Images showed cars being swept along streets by the torrent.

“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” city transport director Joseph Lhota said early today.

City officials had earlier ordered some 375,000 residents out of Lower Manhattan and other areas under threat.

“Lower Manhattan is being covered by seawater,” Howard Glaser, director of operations for the New York state government, was quoted as saying. “I am not exaggerating. Seawater is rushing into the Battery Tunnel.”

Battery Tunnel links Manhattan with Long Island.

The city’s Consolidated Edison utility provider said an explosion at a sub-station, probably caused by flooding or flying debris, blacked out much of Lower Manhattan. (BBC)

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