This aerial photo shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough New York after a fire on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The tiny beachfront neighborhood told to evacuate before Sandy hit New York burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field. — Photo by AP

NEW YORK: The misery of superstorm Sandy’s devastation grew Tuesday as millions along the US East Coast faced life without power or mass transit for days, and huge swaths of New York City remained eerily quiet.  (click here for more photos)

The US death toll climbed to at least 48, many of the victims killed by falling trees, and rescue work continued.

The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with hurricane force cut power to more than 8.2 million across the East and put the presidential campaign on hold just one week before Election Day.

New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart closed for a second day. The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of the city’s subway system, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the biggest US transit system was running again.

“This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced,” Bloomberg said.

But the full extent of the damage in New Jersey was being revealed as morning arrived. Emergency crews fanned out to rescue hundreds.

A hoarse-voiced New Jersey Gov Chris Christie gave bleak news at a morning news conference: Seaside rail lines washed away. No safe place on the state’s barrier islands for him to land.

Parts of the coast still under water. “It is beyond anything I thought I’d ever see,” he said. “It is a devastating sight right now.”

The death toll from Sandy in the US included several killed by falling trees. Sandy killed 18 people in New York City. It also killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard.

Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights. New York City's three major airports remained closed.

Some bridges into the city reopened at midday, but most major tunnels and bridges remained closed, as were schools and Broadway theaters.

The storm sent a nearly 14-foot surge of seawater, a record, coursing over Lower Manhattan’s seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets.

The water inundated 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.

A large tanker ship ran aground on the city’s Staten Island.

Around midday, Sandy was about 120 miles east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, pushing westward with winds of 45 mph,and was expected to make a turn into New York State on Tuesday night.

Although weakening as it goes, the storm will continue to bring heavy rain and flooding, said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Sandy also brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and neighboring Appalachian states, with more than 2 feet of snow expected in some places.

Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the US, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area. He suspended campaigning for a third day Wednesday, and planned to join Christie in viewing the damage in New Jersey.

Obama, speaking during a stop Tuesday at Red Cross headquarters, warned the public that the massive storm that struck the East Coast “is not yet over.”

He said there were still risks of flooding and downed power lines. He called the storm “eartbreaking for the nation.”

The president offered his thoughts and prayers to those affected and told them “America is with you.” He said he also told government officials coordinating the response that there was “no excuse for inaction.”

And he said he told governors in affected areas that if they get no for an answer, “they can call me personally at the White House.”

Republican challenger Mitt Romney resumed his campaign, but with plans to turn a political rally in Ohio into a “storm relief event.”

Water cascaded into the gaping, unfinished construction pit at the World Trade Center, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the Blizzard of 1888. The NYSE said it will reopen on Wednesday.

A fire raged in a neighborhood Tuesday morning in the borough of Queens, near the Atlantic Ocean, with 80 to 100 homes destroyed but no deaths reported.

“This will be one for the record books,” said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison, which had more than 670,000 customers without power in and around New York City.

In New Jersey, where the superstorm came ashore, Sandy cut off barrier islands, swept houses from their foundations and washed amusement pier rides into the ocean. It also wrecked several boardwalks up and down the coast, tearing away roofs and caused extensive damage to casinos.

Superstorm Sandy forced three nuclear reactors to close by playing havoc with cooling water and electrical lines, but the nuclear industry took the pounding without suffering a major problem.

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