Up to 17 people were reported dead and millions left without electricity in their homes on Tuesday morning, as residents of the U.S. East Coast awoke to confront the extensive destruction wreaked overnight by hurricane Sandy.

Although New York City faced the brunt of the pounding, with major damage to its subway system and its financial district remaining shuttered for a second day, fatalities occurred across seven states and President Barack Obama declared an emergency in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Mr. Obama also declared a state of “major disaster” in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island, which, along with the emergency declaration, allows for federal assistance to supplement cities’ efforts to provide temporary housing and repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other disaster recovery measures.

Even as the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night, with sustained, 130-kmph wind gusts, leading to six million homes losing power, it forced an abrupt pause in the full-pace political campaigns focused on next week’s crucial presidential election.

Addressing media at the White House Mr. Obama said, “I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. The election will take care of itself next week.”

Similarly the campaign team of Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said that they would be moving forward with a planned event in Ohio, but that its focus would be storm relief. The decision by Mr. Romney, his wife, Ann, and his vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, to attend hurricane relief events on Tuesday came even as a Pew Research Centre poll found that both candidates were tied at 47 per cent.

Yet given the extent of the damage in Sandy’s wake, it was clear that between now and Election Day on November 6, attention would in any case focus on recovery efforts, in New York City, for example, which wore a post-apocalyptic appearance with debris-littered streets, a damaged crane hanging limply above an 80-story building, and blocked-up bridges and subway tunnels.

According to reports the American Red Cross said that approximately 11,000 people spent Monday night in 258 shelters across 16 states.

However wind gusts dropped by Tuesday morning and Sandy, re-classified as a post-tropical cyclone after landfall, was expected to take a northwards path towards Canada later in day and bring heavy snowfall along its path.

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