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Sandy leaves death, darkness in US

NEW YORK -- As Superstorm Sandy churned slowly inland, millions along the U.S. East Coast awoke Tuesday without power or mass transit, and huge swaths of New York City were unusually dark and abandoned. At least 17 people were killed in seven states.

The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with 80 mph (130 kph) sustained winds cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses from the Carolinas to Ohio and put the presidential campaign on hold one week before Election Day.

New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart closed for a second day and seawater cascading into the still-gaping construction pit at the World Trade Center. The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of New York's extensive subway system, according to Joseph Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Trading at the New York Stock Exchange was canceled again Tuesday — the first time the exchange suspended operations for two consecutive days due to weather since a blizzard in 1888.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area.

New York City's three major airports remained closed. Overall, more than 13,500 flights had been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, almost all related to the storm, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware.

Curiosity turned to concern overnight as New York City residents watched whole neighborhoods disappear into darkness as power was cut. The World Trade Center site was a glowing ghost near the tip of Lower Manhattan. Residents reported seeing no lights but the strobes of emergency vehicles and the glimpses of flashlights in nearby apartments. Lobbies were flooded, cars floated and people started to worry about food.

A fire continued to rage in a city neighborhood Tuesday morning near the Atlantic Ocean, with 80 to 100 homes destroyed but no deaths reported.

An unprecedented 13-foot (3.9-meter) surge of seawater — 3 feet (90 centimeters) above the previous record — gushed into lower Manhattan, inundating tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown.

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Cars float in a flooded basement in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the financial district of New York, Monday. U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the situation a “major disaster” for large areas of the U.S. East Coast, including New York City. (AP/AFP)

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