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Barack Obama declares New York a 'major disaster' after Hurricane Sandy leaves 17 dead

President Barack Obama has declared New York a "major disaster" after Americans awoke to scenes of devastation.

Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast of the US overnight, leaving at least 17 people dead and over seven million without power.

New York was inundated with record levels of floodwater, causing what was described by authorities as the worst disruption in history to the city's transport network.

"The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," said Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

The hurricane has also ripped through big cities of the Northeast corridor, from Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Among the 16 dead in New York were two children killed instantly by a falling tree, a woman electrocuted to death by falling wires in Manhattan and a 29-year-old man killed in a car crash in Queens.

Sandy is moving westward across southern Pennsylvania with winds of 65mph and is expected to move into Canada on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama returned early from a campaign trip to Florida and has cancelled several other campaign events to monitor the storm.

On Monday night he declared New York a "major disaster" 

A 13ft wall of water caused by the storm surge and high tides resulted in severe flooding to the subway and road tunnels.

In this picture, water rushes into the Carey Tunnel, previously the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel 

The storm also knocked out power to at least 6.2 million people across the US East coast, and large sections of Manhattan were plunged into darkness 

Torrents of water poured into building works at Ground Zero and cars were swept down the streets 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday night that the surge was expected to recede by midnight.

'We knew that this was going to be a very dangerous storm and the storm has met our expectations,' he said. 'This is a once-in-a-long-time storm' 

A replica of the tallship HMS Bounty was sunk by the hurricane off North Carolina. One of the crew, Claudene Christian, 42, was killed.

The captain of the vessel is still missing, while 14 others were rescued 

Fire fighters evaluate the scene of an apartment building which was torn apart 

Before the storm hit, thousands of residents were told to evacuate their homes and evacuation shelters were set up in 76 schools.

Pictured here, an empty Grand Central Station 

Flood water rushes into a underground car park in New York's Financial District 

The storm's damage is projected at £12 billion 

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