NEW YORK — New York awoke in shock Tuesday to the devastation of superstorm Sandy, which left at least 10 dead in the city and threatened to leave days of chaos in its wake.
Firefighters battled blazes and carried out rescues in flooded houses a day after the storm set off an explosion at a power station, while scores of homes were destroyed by fire or the record 13.9 foot (4.2 meter) storm surge, officials said.
Subway trains and buses remained suspended for a third day and hundreds of thousands of homes face up to a week without electricity, the power company warned.
Runways at New York’s three main airports were flooded extending the international air chaos caused by the storm, though John F. Kennedy airport could reopen Wednesday, officials said. The New York stock exchange was closed for a second day.
Ten storm deaths in the city were reported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who warned the toll could rise.
One man was crushed by a tree in Queens. Bloomberg said another person stepped in a puddle in which there was an electric wire and two people were found drowned in a flooded house.
New York state governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York police and national guard troops “saved hundreds of lives yesterday”.
Firefighters battled 23 serious fires some of which continued Tuesday, Bloomberg told a press conference. He said 80 homes were destroyed.
Smoke lingered over many streets after a huge fire tore through 50 homes in the Breezy Point district of Queens. Firemen in boats rescued about 25 people trapped by fire. The homes were left a tangled mess of wood and metal.
Breezy Point is near Rockaway Beach, where firemen rescued several people trapped in their homes by waves which tore into the streets. Upturned cars were left strewn across roads.
A spectacular explosion at a Manhattan electricity sub-station at the peak of the storm cut power to 193,000 homes on the island.
About 300,000 other homes in New York lost electricity as Sandy tore down trees and flooded power transmission facilities.
“Don’t be surprised if it takes a week” to get power back, warned Con Edison electricity company spokesman Alfonso Quiroz.
Many roads remained blocked by trees, and road tunnels were inundated by floodwaters that slowly receded after the city was battered. Bridges off Manhattan were only open to emergency services.
Some subway stations had water above platform level and it was expected to be several days before trains were fully operational again.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) president Joseph Lhota said the New York subway “has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.”
Police and ambulance sirens dominated the diminished morning traffic. Pedestrians had to avoid trees torn up by the wind gusts of up to 95 miles (150 kilometers) an hour that hit the city.
The streets of Lower Manhattan were pitch black until the sun rose. But the power cuts left giant apartment blocks without elevator service.
“I have no water, no gas. I walked down 20 flights of stairs to get to street level and now I must try to get to the office,” said accountant Joseph Warburton as he headed for Midtown along Third Avenue.
The roads were strewn with uprooted trees, telephone booths ripped off their foundations and traffic lights blown down with wires left exposed.
New York University’s Tisch hospital had to evacuate more than 200 patients, including about 20 babies, when it was caught in the power cuts and its backup generator failed. Long lines of ambulances were still taking patients away on Tuesday morning.
Safety experts also nervously watched a crane over a 90 story luxury apartment block that buckled in the gale force winds.
The boom of the crane swayed in the fierce gusts over streets near Central Park, which police and fire services evacuated because of the risk that it could fall.
In another spectacular demonstration of its power, the hurricane pulled off the facade of a three-story building in the Chelsea district. No injuries were reported.