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Sandy shatters delicate New Jersey barrier islands

NEW YORK -- Superstorm Sandy left New Jersey's delicate barrier islands a hazardous wasteland of eroded shoreline, ruined beachfront homes, flooded streets and damaged utilities and a forecasting firm estimated the total U.S. damage from the storm could run as high as US$50 billion.

New York City was slowly coming back to life, starting with the partial reopening Thursday of the vital subway, three days after the storm hit. However, neighboring New Jersey was stunned by coastal devastation and the news that thousands of people in one city were still stranded by increasingly fetid flood waters.

The forecasting firm Eqecat estimated the total U.S. damage at US$50 billion, making it the second-costliest storm in the country's history after Hurricane Katrina. The estimate includes property damage and lost business.

The total cost in human lives reached more than 90 fatalities in 10 states.

New Jersey's once-pristine Atlantic coastline famous for Bruce Springsteen and the TV show “Jersey Shore” was shattered. Some residents finally got a look at what was left of their homes: Sandy wrecked houses, businesses and boardwalks.

And warnings rose again about global warming and the prospect of more such severe weather to come.

“The next 50 to 100 years are going to be very different than what we've seen in the past 50 years,” said S. Jeffress Williams, a scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey's Woods Hole Science Center in Massachusetts. The sea level is rising fast, and destructive storms are occurring more frequently, said Williams, who expects things to get even worse.

Across the Hudson River from New York City, the floodwaters were slowly receding in the city of Hoboken, where an estimated 20,000 people had remained in their homes. The National Guard was helping with evacuations, but residents were warned not to walk around in water that was tainted with sewage and chemicals from the heavily industrial region.

New Jersey residents across the state were urged to conserve water. At least 1.7 million customers remained without electricity there, and fights broke out as people waited in long lines for gas.

NY Subway Partially Resumes

In New York, the decision to reopen undamaged parts of the United States' largest transit system came as more than 4.6 million homes and businesses were without power — down from a peak of 8.5 million.

New Yorkers streamed into the city as service began to resume on commuter trains and subways. The three major airports resumed at least limited service, and the New York Stock Exchange was open again. Amtrak's Northeast Corridor — the busiest train line in the country — was to take commuters along the heavily populated East Coast again starting Friday.

But hundreds of people lined up for buses, traffic jammed for miles (kilometers) and long gas lines formed. And the latest deaths reported included two young boys who disappeared Monday night when waves of water crashed into an SUV.

Hundreds of thousands in New York City alone were still without power, especially in downtown Manhattan, which remained in the dark roughly south of the Empire State Building after floodwaters had knocked out electricity. Con Edison said it was on track to restore power by Saturday.

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Commuters board a New York Waterway ferry bound for Midtown Manhattan, at the 14th Street pier in Hoboken, New Jersey on Thursday, Nov. 1. (AP)

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