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3rd LD: Flood breaks levee in storm-battered U.S., Obama declares "major disaster"

NEW YORK, Oct. 31 — Surging waters driven by the fury of superstorm Sandy breached a levee in the state of New Jersey on Tuesday, forcing evacuations, local authorities said.

The embankment in the town of Moonachie, near Little Ferry, collapsed as floodwaters rose four to six feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) in some areas, Little Ferry police chief Ralph Verdi told CNN.

"We're doing the best we can," he said. "Our town is in real trouble right now."

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie said at a morning news conference Tuesday that seaside rail lines had been washed away and parts of the coast were still under water.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama declared a state of "major disaster" in neighboring New York state, allowing the government to channel federal aid to victims.

In order to responde to the storm, Obama on Tuesday canceled his trip to Ohio for a planned presidential election campaign scheduled on Wednesday, the White House said.

The president would remain in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to monitor the response to Hurricane Sandy and ensure that all available federal resources continue to be provided to support ongoing state and local recovery efforts," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

As a result, the president would not participate in the campaign events that have been scheduled in Ohio on Wednesday, the statement said.

Sandy, which made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening, has so far killed at least 17 people in seven states. New York was one of the hardest hit.

Reports quoted the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) as saying that the storm has badly damaged seven subway tunnels from Manhattan to Queens and Brooklyn, and the MTA's Metro North Railroad lost power on its suburban Hudson and New Haven lines.

New York City closed its subway services, bus and commuter train systems on Sunday night in preparation for the storm.

New York City's three major airports also remain closed. So far, more than 13,500 flights had been canceled, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware.

Meanwhile, the New York Stock Exchange canceled trading again Tuesday, the first time it has closed for two consecutive days due to bad weather since 1888.

So far, the superstorm has killed at least 10 people in the New York City, and the death toll may continue to rise, city Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday at a press conference. (PNA/Xinhua)

/JSD

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