New York/Washington (dpa) - People across the north-eastern United States began cleaning up Tuesday in the aftermath of Sandy, an unprecedented superstorm that caused at least 30 deaths and carved a wide swath of damage across the region.
Up to 8 million households were without power from South Carolina to Maine and west to Ohio. Transportation systems in New York andmajor international airports were closed. The death toll appeared likely to rise.
Damage from the storm could reach tens of billions of dollars, according to initial projections. Sandy first blew across Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas, killing 67people last week in the Caribbean before turning north.
Over the US East Coast, the storm collided over the mid-Atlantic region with a cold front from the north-west, creating unprecedented conditions.
New Jersey, where Sandy punched ashore late Monday, suffered severe coastal flooding and power outages. Parts of the state received nearly 30 centimetres of rain.
"The level of devastation on the Jersey Shore is unthinkable, "Governor Chris Christie said. Flooded and without power, gambling resort Atlantic City was "completely unsafe," Christie said.
Later, while touring damage, he told reporters: "I've never seen anything as devastating as this in my life." New Jersey reported beach erosion, homes knocked off their foundations and amusement park rides pushed into the sea. More than 5,500 people were in shelters Tuesday in New Jersey amid forced evacuations.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sandy's destruction would "be felt for quite some time." The waterlogged subway system - thelargest in the United States - could remain closed until next week due to flooding, he said at a news conference.
One photograph showed water up to the platform at a subway station on 86th Street in Manhattan. Tunnels from New Jersey to Manhattan were closed during the storm, and only the Lincoln Tunnel was reopened Tuesday, while most bridges were open again. Grand Central and Penn stations, two major transportation hubs used daily by millions of people, were closed.
At least 10 deaths occurred in New York City due to Sandy, including people crushed by falling trees or electrocuted by downed power lines.
Bloomberg said he expected the number of storm-related deaths to rise. New York officials reported 23 fires, including a single conflagration that destroyed 80 homes in Queens, the city's easternmost borough.
There were 76 shelters open in the city for hundreds of thousands of people forced out of low-lying homes. Crews were working to clear streets and make sure bridges were safe, Bloomberg said, adding that the best thing New Yorkers could do to help get the city back to normal was stay home.
Trading on Wall Street was to resume Wednesday, as insurance companies and government officials begin adding up the damage.
Nearly 16,000 flights were cancelled as airlines flew jets away from airports in Sandy's path to avoid damage to their fleets.
In Washington, the underground system was closed for a second day, the federal government was shut down, schools were closed and practically all events canceled.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate said 1,500 pre-positioned disaster workers were already working on storm relief efforts, with more on the way into the region.
Fugate said that governors of some of the other affected states had offered to send help particularly to New York and New Jersey.
US President Barack Obama spent Tuesday at the White House after cancelling campaign events, a week before the election.
He declared a "major disaster" in New York and New Jersey, making federal money available to state and local governments, as well as tobusinesses and residents with losses in New York City, Atlantic City and surrounding areas.
Damage was reported in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut.
The storm dumped up to 1 metre of snow across the Appalachian Mountain state of West Virginia, where blizzard warnings were still in effect late Tuesday.
Sandy was downgraded from a hurricane to post-tropical cyclone Monday night, and was moving north-west over central Pennsylvania, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said late Tuesday. The maximum sustained winds were 72 kilometres per hour, and severe weather warnings were issued for the Great Lakes region.