Superstorm Sandy shuts down NYC

Floods wash rapidly across New York as Superstorm Sandy made its much anticipated arrival.

A flooded street in the financial district of New York caused by Hurricane Sandy on 29 October 2012. Picture: AFP

NEW YORK - Eleven deaths have been confirmed in the United States as a result of Superstorm Sandy which made landfall along the New Jersey coastline last night, before hitting New York.

The hurricane, which became a tropical storm, caused scenes of damage and destruction across New York State's five boroughs.

Like scenes straight out of a movie - water caused by the storm flooded lower parts of Manhattan in Battery Park City and in the East Village, as well as through the World Trade Centre site.

Almost 3 million people are without power and large trees and branches can be seen in the streets.

A 29-year-old man was killed in Queens when a large tree fell on his house and an explosion at the power utility giant Con Edison, lit up the night sky.

Parts of the subway system are flooded too and all the bridges and tunnels are closed to traffic.

Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign.

Police confirmed deaths were reported as far away as Toronto as well.

High winds and flooding racked hundreds of kilometers of Atlantic coastline while heavy snows were forecast farther inland as the centre of the storm marched westward.

The storm's wind field stretched from the Canadian border to South Carolina and from West Virginia to an Atlantic Ocean point about halfway between the United States and Bermuda, easily one of the largest ever seen.

More than three million customers already were without power by early evening and more than one million people were subject to evacuation orders. Many communities were swamped by flood waters.

The National Hurricane Centre said Sandy had sustained winds of 129 km/h, well above the threshold for hurricane intensity.

The storm's target area includes big population centres such as New York City, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Falling debris closed a major bridge in Boston and floodwater inundated side streets in the resort town of Dewey Beach, Delaware, leaving just the tops of mailboxes in view.

In Fairfield, a Connecticut coastal town and major commuter point into Manhattan, police cruisers blocked the main road leading to the beaches and yellow police tape cordoned off side entrances. Beach pavilions were boarded up with plywood, and gusts of wind rocked parked cars.

"People are definitely not taking this seriously enough," said police officer Tiffany Barrett. "Our worst fear is something like Katrina and we can't get to people."

US stock markets were closed for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and will remain shut on Tuesday. The federal government in Washington was closed and schools were shut up and down the East Coast.

One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured.

Governors up and down the East Coast declared states of emergency. Maryland's Martin O'Malley warned there was no question Sandy would kill people in its path.