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Sandy strikes: Superstorm batters US East Coast

The center of superstorm Sandy has reached the US state of New Jersey. The hurricane, which was downgraded to the “post-tropical” storm, has caused 13 deaths and left over 6 million along the East Coast without power.

The storm, packing torrential rains and wind, made landfall along the New Jersey coast near Atlantic City, the National Hurricane Center says.Earlier, the NHC said the category 1 Hurricane Sandy had lost tropical characteristics, becoming a “post-tropical cyclone” with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph and gusts reaching 115 mph.

The storm has heavily affected many parts of New York City, with power outages and several feet of water hitting large areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Statue of Liberty's torch has gone out, apparently due to extreme weather conditions.Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that conditions are expected to worsen, urging New Yorkers to stay inside. “Conditions outside are dangerous, and they are only going to get worse in the hours ahead,” he told a press conference.

At least 13 people have been killed by the disaster, according to AP. Casualties were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.One woman has been killed by a falling sign in Toronto as high winds reached Canada.New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that subway and bus networks are suspended and will remain closed for an unknown period of time. “Service will be restored only when it is safe to do so, and after careful inspections of all equipment, tracks and other sub-systems and bus routes. Even with minimal damage this is expected to be a lengthy process,” the MTA said in a statement.MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told WABC Television that subway service could be crippled for “at least a week.”There have been reports that the main building of Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital is on fire. Emergency services cannot reach the site, as the streets surrounding the hospital are flooded, Sheepshead Bites news blog reports.Meanwhile, social networks users on Manhattan's Lower East Side have reported a "huge explosion" that preceded the neighborhood's power going out. Lower Manhattan now appears to be without electricity across the board after an apparent blast at the power transformer.

As the storm pounds the East Coast, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has declared an ‘Alert’ at a power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey.“The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure,” it said in a statement.

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