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Hurricane Sandy's trail of destruction

Superstorm Sandy leaves a trail of destruction in New Jersey and New York.

PT0M55S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-28l31 620 349

NEW YORK: Long Island is almost 200 kilometres long and about 30 kilometres wide, a fat digit pointing out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Its base is New York harbour, the borough of Brooklyn opposite downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

From there it stretches east, its southern coastline a long string of sandy ''barrier islands'', holiday hamlets, beachside suburbs and canal-life getaways. All were smashed by the wall of water pushed north by the storm.

In Coney Island the amusement park has only just drained of water, and the damage shows.

Around the corner is Coney Island USA: a freak show theatre, home of the annual Mermaid Parade. Inside, everything was submerged in 1½ metres of water. It is ruined, and starting to stink.

Wednesday was supposed to be the night of the big Halloween show, the last one for the show's performers before the winter break.

The owner, Dick Zigun, defied the evacuation order, like so many others, and nearly paid a heavy price. ''I assumed it was going to be bad but I could handle it,'' he says with a shrug.

When water started pouring into his living room over the sandbags, he realised he would have to find a safer place, so he crossed the street to his neighbours' apartment building.

The street was a knee-deep torrent. ''They were like rapids - I was worried I would be knocked over.''

From a high floor of the apartment block, he watched the water continue to rise. ''I learned something that you only find out when you go through something like this,'' he says

''When the water level rises, the doorbells start ringing. It rings the lowest bell first. Then the second floor … it's like some phantom drowned sea captain who's rising up, ringing each doorbell in turn. That was creepy.''

In Long Beach, a cute holiday town full of bars and cafes, cars sit in garages wedged up to their windscreens in sand.

Police have set up checkpoints to stop people coming in - there is no power, no mobile coverage, no running water, and in some places gas and sewage are leaking.

On a street set back from the beach, a man cracks, shouting at his neighbour in a high, angry voice. ''Don't tell me to calm down, you f---!'' he yells as he stands in front of his home, a cute cottage in a pool of seawater.

In Babylon, the last stop on my drive east, Carol is washing mud off her Crocs.

Though her home is literally across the road from the ocean, she stayed put during the storm. ''I was upstairs shaking in my boots,'' she says.

''Staying here was the dumbest thing in my life. Never again.''