At least 50 homes burned to the ground early on Tuesday morning in the Breezy Point neighborhood in Queens, New York, in fires whipped up by Hurricane Sandy, US media reported, citing firefighters at the scene.
All the residents had been evacuated and the only reported casualties were two people with minor injuries. Almost 200 firefighters are working to douse the blaze.
The storm surge from Sandy has also flooded seven tunnels used by the New York City subway system, which was shut down entirely prior to the hurricane making landfall.
The New York subway system “is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement on the MTA website.
The effect of salt water flooding the system is expected to complicate the job of getting the system, which typically carries 5.2 million passengers a day, back up and running.
“Our subway system and salt water do not mix,” Lhota told the Wall Street Journal.
Manhattan’s iconic skyline was only sparsely lit in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday as flooding shorted out electrical lines and substations.
Sandy is thought to have knocked out power for millions of people, and the total number could climb to 10 million, Edison Electric Institute spokesman Keith Voight said, citing forecasters.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier issued an alert at a nuclear power plant in New Jersey near the point where Sandy made landfall on Monday evening, the NRC said.
The NRC announced the alert – the second lowest of four warning levels – at 8:45 p.m. (EDT) on Monday at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, the nation’s oldest plant, due to rising water levels in the plant’s intake structure.
The statement notes that no plants have had to shut down for Sandy, although several - including Oyster Creek - were already out of service “for regularly scheduled refueling and maintenance outages.”
In addition, one unit at the Indian Point plant in New York was shut down late in the evening on Monday due to electrical grid issues outside the plant, according to media reports.
Sandy, which has been downgraded to a post-tropical storm, is still packing winds of up to 65 miles per hour and bringing torrential rains across much of the central portion of the US eastern seaboard.
The storm has so far been blamed in the deaths of 15 people in the US as well as one person in Canada.