At least 50 people are reported to have died after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the US after sweeping through the Caribbean, where it is said to have claimed over 80 lives.

According to loss modelling agency Eqecat, the storm – which now stretches almost 1000 miles (1609 km) and has affected more than 50 million people – is forecast to cost between US$ 10 billion and US$ 20 billion in total economic damages, and between US$ 5 billion and US$ 10 billion in insured losses.

US President Barack Obama has declared the state of New York a major disaster area after flooding and fires affected towns and cities. A 4m tidal surge is said to have swamped New York City, closing the subway system and other public infrastructure.

Sandy, which has now been downgraded from a hurricane but described as a "super-storm", is currently heading for Canada.

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