With at least 50 people dead, transit crippled in New York City and millions of people along the U.S. East Coast struggling without electricity, communities face a daunting challenge of repairing the damage wrought by super-storm Sandy. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg surveyed the destruction in the hardest-hit neighborhoods Tuesday. He said he saw homes so utterly destroyed only “chimneys and foundations” were visible. But despite the daunting challenge of recovery efforts, Bloomberg said “New Yorkers are resilient.” About a third of New York’s fleet of taxis were operating Tuesday, bus service was partially restored, and the New York Stock Exchange was expected to reopen Wednesday. U.S. President Barack Obama declared New York and Long Island a “major” disaster area. The declaration means federal funding is now available to residents of the hardest-hit areas, who awoke to a tragic aftermath of the deadly storm that slammed ashore in New Jersey on Monday evening. New York had seen a four-meter surge of seawater crash ashore overnight, inundating the city’s tunnels and electrical systems and causing massive damage to the city’s famed subway. The storm left New York with no running trains, a vacated business district and entire neighborhoods under water. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the subway system, which remains closed, had suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history. As of midday Tuesday, Sandy’s sustained winds were already diminishing from the 130 km/h it was packing at landfall near Atlantic City, N.J. on Monday evening. But forecasters warn the storm system will continue to affect a region stretching from the U.S. eastern seaboard north to Canada, and as far west as Wisconsin and Illinois, as it churns across Pennsylvania before veering into western New York state sometime Wednesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave a bleak update at a morning news conference Tuesday, saying seaside rail lines were washed away, and there was no safe place on the state’s barrier islands for him as large parts of the coast are still under water.
“We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can,” Christie said. “The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point.” The effects aren’t contained to America’s largest city. More than 7.4 million homes and businesses in an area that stretches from the Carolinas in the south to Ohio in the northeast are without power Tuesday. Tens of thousands were also without electricity in southern parts of Ontario and Quebec too, as Sandy carries its combination of rain and wind northwards. In Canada, a Toronto woman was killed Monday evening after she was struck by a falling sign blown down in the powerful storm’s high winds. Most of the Sandy-related wind warnings issued by Environment Canada have been called off however, except for the Sarnia region, areas along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Inverness County in Nova Scotia. The storm was officially downgraded from hurricane status, but it came ashore packing a lot of energy due to its unusually low barometric pressure. Combined with a cold-weather system from the north, and the high tide of the full moon, the storm is forecast to continue wreaking havoc across a 1,300-kilometre region that’s home to 50 million people through Wednesday. Sandy may cost the U.S. more than $20 billion in damage.