New York intact but Irene's floods soak Vermont


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The Independent Online

As commuters trickled into a mostly unscathed New York City yesterday in the wake of Hurricane Irene, raging rivers continued to cause record flooding across the north-eastern US and electricity companies struggled to restore power to five million darkened homes and businesses.

Damaged and blocked rail lines more or less shut down morning commuter services from the suburbs to Manhattan, which had emerged largely intact from the storm. Wall Street was open yesterday and the US Open Tennis Championships began in Queens as planned. Some questioned whether the authorities had unnecessarily overstated the dangers of Irene.

The hurricane's legacy was nonetheless one of misery for many. At least 21 people died in the US before it crossed into eastern Canada. One man in a suburb north of New York City died trying to help a father and son entangled in live power lines. After being electrocuted himself he fell into a puddle of water that was also live, preventing horrified onlookers from pulling him away.

In New Jersey, Celena Sylvestri, 20, called police saying she was up to her neck in water in her car. When a rescue team found her eight hours later she had drowned at the wheel.

Some of the heaviest rainfall was in the Catskill region of New York and in Vermont which last night was confronting its worst floods since 1927, with roads washed out and buildings partially destroyed, as well as one of Vermont's famous covered bridges .

Rivers have days more to crest and bringing back order to the region's mass transit networks may take as long. Airlines said they were forced to cancel no fewer than 12,000 flights since Saturday, a record for the industry. Hub airports were operating again yesterday but a backlog of hundreds of thousands of grounded passengers would take most of this week to clear.