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An American flag flies from the front yard of a house in a flood-damaged area of Queens in New York on Oct 30/AFP


Storm-battered US sifts through Sandy’s wreckage

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An American flag flies from the front yard of a house in a flood-damaged area of Queens in New York on Oct 30/AFP

NEW YORK, Oct 31 – New Yorkers struggled to restore power and clear debris on Wednesday after superstorm Sandy carved a path of destruction from the Caribbean to Canada that left at least 110 people dead.

The massive cyclone that drove hurricane-force winds and deadly ocean surges against a large swathe of the US East Coast was still generating blizzards in the Appalachians, as millions remained without power and transport was snarled.

Less than a week before Americans go to the polls, President Barack Obama planned to tour flooded areas alongside New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a backer of his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

Romney was meanwhile set to return to the campaign trail in Florida after cancelling events Monday and Tuesday to focus on rescue and recovery work, with the race still too close to call as a storm-imposed truce gradually unravelled.

The death toll from accidents related to the storm rose to 43 in North America since Sandy made landfall on Monday, with 67 killed earlier as the then-hurricane tore through the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, authorities and citizens in America’s biggest city struggled to restore vital services and clear debris after a wall of storm-driven seawater swamped road and rail tunnels and triggered massive fires.

“Restoring power and mass transit remain the two biggest challenges in the days ahead,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters, as rescue crews and utility workers surveyed an apocalyptic scene.

“This is the end of the downside, and hopefully from here it is going up,” Bloomberg said.

In the ocean-front Queens neighbourhood of Breezy Point, more than 80 houses burned after flooding caused a fire, while lower Manhattan – New York’s iconic high-rise financial centre – was blacked out by a massive power cut.

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The New York subway system, much of which was flooded by seawater, was still gripped by what management dubbed its worst disaster in its 108-year history.

Obama, who faces a tough re-election battle on November 6, sent his support.

“America is with you. We are standing behind you and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet,” he said.

The president said he would tour New Jersey on Wednesday after Christie, the state’s Republican governor, reported “unthinkable” devastation in submerged coastal communities.

Daylight brought surreal images of the storm’s devastation: a boat washed onto a railway track in New York state, cars bobbing like corks in submerged New York City parking lots, and a neighbourhood in Queens burnt to cinders.

More than eight million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Maine were without power Tuesday, the Department of Energy said, with outages increasing as the still-formidable storm moves west towards the Great Lakes.

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