New York reemerges from Sandy's wreckage

NEW YORK, USA - Two airports and Wall Street reopened Wednesday, October 31, bringing the first signs of normality back to storm-battered New York, as President Barack Obama headed on a politically charged inspection of spectacular damage in neighboring New Jersey.

The Big Apple, reduced to a standstill by one of the biggest storms in its history on Monday and Tuesday, was only just starting to reemerge from the wreckage. The New York Stock Exchange, which had its first two-day, weather-related closure since 1888, reopened without a hitch.

And in a move bringing relief to snarled flight schedules around the country, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports made a limited reopening, although LaGuardia was still shut. At last count, 19,500 flights had been cancelled because of superstorm Sandy, tracking service flightaware.com said.

In another bright spot, buses were back on New York city streets. However, the subway, flooded in places during superstorm Sandy, was still closed and dense road traffic made for painfully slow commutes.

In addition, swaths of New York, including many skyscrapers in lower Manhattan, remained without electricity, and schools throughout the city were closed.

Presidential campaign back on track

The presidential election, which also went into a hiatus during the storm, was likewise crawling back to life just days before the November 6 polling day.

Obama, who had suspended his reelection campaign, but was constantly in the headlines as he responded to Hurricane Sandy, was set to make a prominent visit to New Jersey.

The Democratic president won glowing public praise for his performance during the crisis from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an outspoken Republican and a backer of Mitt Romney.

Romney looked to return to full speed after three days of being forced to tone down his political attacks and watch Obama dominate media coverage. The Republican candidate had three campaign events scheduled in Florida, a swing state that he must win.

New York police raised the storm-related death toll to 24 on Wednesday, with the overall US toll approaching 50. Another 67 people died as Sandy swept through the Caribbean last week.

Power outages

As of Wednesday, nearly two million customers had electricity restored, but another 6.2 million across 16 states remained without power, the Department of Energy said.

The worst affected were New Jersey and New York, where about two million customers in each state were without power, followed by Pennsylvania with 852,458 outages, the department said.

Insured losses from Sandy could run between seven and 15 billion dollars (5.4 to 11.5 billion euros), according to initial industry estimates.

Three US nuclear power reactors remained shut and a fourth on alert, after storm waters wreaked havoc with transmission networks and cooling systems, but authorities insisted there were no risks to the public.

Inland, Sandy dumped three feet (90 centimeters) of snow on high ground in Appalachian states as she headed west and north, spreading blizzard conditions over parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The annual New York marathon was confirmed as going ahead this Sunday after doubts earlier about whether roads would be cleared in time and whether thinly stretched police would have sufficient resources.

However, another Big Apple tradition, the Halloween Parade on Wednesday evening, was cancelled. - Agence France-Presse