Heartbreak as huge Sandy clean-up begins

THE United States' East Coast began a massive clean-up and recovery effort likely to last for weeks after Hurricane Sandy brought a nightmare mix of wind and rain, floods and fire, blackouts and transport paralysis.

The death toll continued to rise throughout the day, with at least 48 people losing their lives in the US and one fatality in Canada, on top of 69 who died in the Caribbean before the giant storm churned its way its way north into one of America's most populous areas.

Early estimates of the storm's damage ranged from $10bn to $20bn.

More than seven million homes and businesses in 15 states, including two million in New York and even more in New Jersey, were without power. In New York, parts of Manhattan were in darkness, while all three of the city's major airports were shut for a second day, causing the cancellation of around 15,000 flights in the US and around the world.

While JFK and Newark airports may partly re-open for business soon, La Guardia, almost at sea level, sustained greater damage and could be shut for days.

Flooding from Monday night's huge tidal surge also inflicted the worst damage on the city's subway system in its 108-year history. For the first time since 1888, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for weather reasons for a second day.

In Washington, President Barack Obama declared New York, Long island and New Jersey major disaster areas, speeding up the flow of federal relief funds.

In a surprise visit to the Red Cross headquarters last night, Mr Obama said that the superstorm was "heartbreaking for the nation". Warning that "it isn't over yet", he said Americans should remain cautious of downed power lines and flooding.

The President will remain off the campaign trail today to visit some the worst affected areas in New Jersey.

With an eye to how voters will perceive his own response to the tragedy next week on polling day, Mr Obama urged government officials to do all they can to respond to the emergency saying "there is no excuse for inaction" and told governors of all the affected states that they could "call me personally at the White House" at any time.

Of those states, none took a heavier pummeling than New Jersey, especially its shoreline and barrier islands where the centre of the storm made landfall on Monday evening. Chris Christie, the state's governor, described the level of destruction there as "unthinkable," and "incalculable," after hurricane-force winds and pounding seas had ravaged low-lying towns.

With nowhere for his helicopter to land, Mr Christie yesterday made a fly-over inspection of the devastated area. "There are houses floating in the middle of Route 35 [a coastal highway]," he told a news conference.

Normally, in these critical final days of a presidential campaign, the blunt-talking Mr Christie, a top Republican draw, would have been out stumping for Mitt Romney and excoriating Mr Obama. But, the governor declared with trademark trenchancy, "I don't give a damn about the election, I've got much bigger fish to fry."

In a measure of how Sandy has temporarily supplanted partisan politics, Mr Christie told of how he had spoken by phone with Mr Obama around midnight on Monday, and lauded the President for his "outstanding" handling of the crisis.

Elsewhere in New Jersey, a levee broke in Moonachie - across the Hudson river from Manhattan - forcing hundreds of people to be rescued by boat and leaving entire neighbourhoods under water.

"We've never had anything like it, a wall of water washed right through," Ralph Verdi, police chief of nearby Little Ferry, said.

Half of Hoboken, on the Hudson's New Jersey shore, was flooded, following the record tidal surge of nearly 14ft into New York harbour. Sandy "came in and made Hoboken an island unto itself, the Hudson flooded us like a bathtub," Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken's mayor, told CNN.

New York experienced its own tragedies and dramas. At least 80 houses burned down in Queens as fire, probably caused by an electrical short-circuit, consumed the largely wooden buildings.

Tunnels into the city may be shut down for days, while a spectacular explosion at a substation of the ConEdison utility knocked out power to some 310,000 customers in Manhattan. A spokesman for the utility told said parts of the city may have to go days before their power is restored.

Many Manhattanites also struggled to contact loved ones amid cell phone signal blackouts, leaving them not just without power, but also cut off from the wider world.

In all, New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg said, the Sandy disaster was "maybe the worst we have ever experienced," whose after-effects would be felt "for quite some time".

Hampering recovery efforts was the slow speed of the storm, still lumbering across central and Western Pennsylvania, it's impact being felt hundreds of miles in every direction as it merged with a cold weather system moving in from the west.

Washington DC was initially spared the worst and local transit systems re-opened yesterday afternoon. But low-lying urban areas like Georgetown and Alexandria were bracing for flooding from the swollen Potomac river.

Some 30 miles north in Maryland, two million gallons of raw sewage were pouring into the Patuxent river after a power cut paralysed a water treatment plant.

Inland, in the hills and mountains of West Virginia, Sandy's impact came in the form of feet of heavy wet snow that buckled trees and tore down power lines.

Extraordinarily, parts of the state were under separate blizzard, wind and flood warnings simultaneously.

Topics:  hurricane sandy natural disaster usa

Warwick driver wins Wallangarra billy cart race

Cyril Brown, from Warwick, claimed the Border 1000 at Wallangarra on Sunday.

THE rain didn't deter Warwick driver, Cyril Brown.

Jury sworn in for Warwick indecent treatment trial

The alleged offences took place on a day in 2015.

The trial is expected to last a day.

Alleged Warwick arsonist set to face judge

A house fire overnight in Warwick is being treated as suspicious

A MAN accused of burning down his Dragon St home will be sentenced.

Local Partners

Australia Day Award nominations now open

ALL those who know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the Warwick community is encouraged to nominate them for an Australia Day Award.

PICS: Campdraft action gets underway at rodeo

Some of the action from the campdraft first round at the Warwick Rodeo and Campdraft this morning.

Check out the pics galore from the morning's action at the campdraft

Community garden set for Palmwoods

Kay Nixon at the Palmwoods Community Gardens will be hosting a launch day and inviting the ecommunity to come along and sign up.

Parcel of land to supply sustainable gardening for community

Former Split Enz front man Tim Finn finds new niche

Singer Tim Finn has written the music for theatre production Ladies in Black.

Musician finds his way to theatre

Priscilla concerned people will forget about Elvis

Priscilla Presley source Bang

She says she feels responsible to keep his legacy going

Taylor Swift files lawsuit over alleged groping

Taylor Swift source Bang

Swift has commenced legal action against a DJ over the incident

Kanye West threatens to boycott Grammys

West says he won't go to the Grammys if Frank Ocean's not nominated

Why this actress wasn't embarrassed by nude photo leak

Leslie Jones source Bang

'If you wanna see Leslie Jones naked, just ask,' she said

Dad's Army comic genius Jim Perry dies

Jimmy Perry, the creator of Dad's Army.

Dad's Army series captured all that British people savour

Check out some fashions from the Coast festival

FASHION: Ocean Zen range.

Images from the Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival show what's hot

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

What our mayor thinks of the new draft SEQPlan

The plan to use the innovative technology as part of the new Maroochydore CBD was cemented on site today when Mayor Mark Jamieson and Envac Asia Region president Chun Yong Ha formally signed the contract for the $20 million underground waste collection system.

New plan accommodates Sunshine Coast Council's vision for growth.