Britons tell of US storms chaos

Ealing Times: The Inlet section of Atlantic City, New Jersey, as Sandy made its approach (AP/6abc Action News, Dann Cuellar) The Inlet section of Atlantic City, New Jersey, as Sandy made its approach (AP/6abc Action News, Dann Cuellar)

British nationals caught up in one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast of the US for a generation have spoken of the chaos across the Atlantic.

Winds of up to 85mph slammed into the coastline late on Monday night and hurled a record-breaking 13ft surge of seawater at New York City, causing extensive flooding and leaving at least 250,000 people without power.

There have been reports of at least 16 fatalities, including a man whose house was hit by a tree in the Queens borough of the city and two people killed in the state of New Jersey further down the coast.

British holidaymaker Tony Lee, who was holed up in an apartment building in Brooklyn overnight, described the ferocity of the storm - which was downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.

He told Sky News: "There is a lot of bright lights and flashing in the sky. We initially thought we had seen an explosion over the Lower East Side, but locals told us it was probably a transformer that had blown up, so we immediately lost any internet connection, lights and power, so that was quite frightening.

"We were surrounded by green flashes of lightning and this howling wind, and everything bending over and flying at the windows and we are on the fourth floor." He added: "There are things coming off trees and off the roofs, which is frightening."

Television pictures showed a crane on the top of a high-rise building in Manhattan partially collapsed and the facade of a four-storey building in the Chelsea neighbourhood crumbled to the ground. Footage also showed severe flooding in parts of the city, with subways and roads underwater.

British national Chris Sell, who has lived in New York for 23 years, told BBC Radio 5Live: "It is very windy and a bunch of trees have fallen down. I think the city has done an amazing job of getting us all ready for it. I really think we are all as ready as we can be.

"The building collapse in Manhattan is an anomaly but I think the flooding is the big thing. It feels a bit like it did after 9/11 but we are a tough breed here."

More than 1.5 million people were left without electricity in New York State after cuts caused by storm, according to officials.

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