New Yorkers emerge after Sandy
New York - Storm-battered New York got slowly back on its feet on Wednesday with Wall Street and the city's airports getting up and running after a powerful storm that left more than 50 Americans dead.
Just six days before America goes to the polls, President Barack Obama came to survey the damage in neighbouring New Jersey, where tens of thousands of homes are under water and millions of families without power.
While much of New York and many more towns along the US east coast remains paralysed following Monday's onslaught by superstorm Sandy, some key businesses like the stock exchange got back to work.
John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports made a limited reopening, although LaGuardia was still shut. At last count, 19 500 flights had been cancelled because of Sandy, tracking service flightaware.com said.
Buses were back on New York streets and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that limited subway services would resume on Thursday, despite many of the tunnels still being inundated by corrosive seawater.
Cuomo said there would be “limited commuter rail service on Metro North and on the Long Island Railroad which will begin at 2pm today”.
But large sections of New York, including many skyscrapers in lower Manhattan, remained without electricity, and schools throughout the city were shuttered for a third straight day.
The presidential election campaign, which also went into a hiatus during the storm, was likewise coming back to life before the November 6 polling day.
Obama, who had suspended his re-election campaign, but was constantly in the headlines as he responded to Sandy, arrived in New Jersey in the early afternoon to tour areas devastated by wind damage and flooding.
The Democratic president won glowing public praise for his performance handling the situation from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an outspoken Republican and supposed backer of Mitt Romney.
Romney, meanwhile, gingerly returned to the campaign trail in the key swing state of Florida, but, he too, addressed the plight of storm-battered Americans thousands of miles to the north.
“So please, if you have an extra dollar or two, please, send them along and keep the people who have been in harm's way... in your thoughts and prayers,” he told about 2 000 people in an airport hangar.
About 10 000 National Guard troops deployed to storm-hit states to help local authorities rescue stranded survivors, remove debris, direct traffic and assess the damage from the air, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
The head of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, travelled to New York to look at how the corps could bolster efforts to restore power and clear water from flooded tunnels and electric substations.
While National Guard trucks rolled through the flooded streets of New Jersey, troops offered help along a main highway in the mountains of West Virginia, where the massive storm dumped a blanket of snow.
Army engineers stood ready to provide pumps and generators as needed while the US Navy sent out three amphibious ships off the New Jersey coast in case state governments requested aid for rescue operations.
It was clear that the cleanup and healing process would take much time.
New York police raised the storm-related death toll to 24 on Wednesday, with the overall US toll passing 50 according to officials and US media. Another 67 people died as Sandy swept through the Caribbean last week.
As of Wednesday, nearly two million customers had electricity restored, but another 6.2 million across 16 states remained without power, the Department of Energy said.
The worst affected were New Jersey and New York, where about two million customers in each state were without power, followed by Pennsylvania with 852 458 outages, the department said.
Insured losses from Sandy could run between $7-billion and $15-billion, according to initial industry estimates.
Three US nuclear power reactors remained shut and a fourth on alert, after storm waters wreaked havoc with transmission networks and cooling systems, but authorities insisted there were no risks to the public.
Inland, Sandy dumped 90cm of snow on high ground in Appalachian states as she headed west and north, spreading blizzard conditions over parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
At 1900 GMT, the National Weather Service said Sandy had weakened but that additional snowfall of up to 10cm was expected in the mountains of West Virginia, far western Maryland and southwest Pennsylvania.
The annual New York marathon was confirmed to be going ahead on Sunday after doubts about whether roads would be cleared in time and whether thinly stretched police would have sufficient resources.
However, another Big Apple tradition, the Halloween Parade on Wednesday evening, was cancelled. - Sapa-AFP