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Sandy sweeps across the US east coast -

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ELEANOR HALL: Well the ABC's Ben Knight is watching the storm from a Red Cross emergency shelter in the town of Rehoboth Beach on the coast of Delaware. He joins us there now.

Ben, has this storm hit yet where you are?

BEN KNIGHT: Oh it hit Eleanor, and it's - I wouldn't say that's it's passed. I think probably we have seen the worst of it here but I'm still looking out on very, very high winds, a stop sign that's blowing about in front of me that looks like it might be about to come loose and the wind - the rain is just still blowing horizontally across.

But look we probably saw the worst of it about an hour ago, when it was not a good time to be outside. I'm standing outside at the moment, it's extremely cold and it's still a long night ahead.

ELEANOR HALL: It must have been terrifying for people waiting for it and indeed being in its path as you are now.

BEN KNIGHT: Well look I would not want to be out there and there are a lot of people, I gather, who are still out there. Some of the people who turned up to this shelter quite late in the evening brought in by the National Guard were people who had made the decision that they were going to stay in their houses and obviously changed their mind.

And honestly, I found that a little hard to comprehend, I mean I've only been in this country a couple of days and I have been highly conscious of what was supposed to be coming and the very, very serious warnings that were coming out from almost any public official you could think of up to and including the president of the United States.

But look - people, they just decided they didn't want to leave and one person who said she steadfastly wasn't going to leave and then complained to me that the National Guard were late coming to pick her up.

So look it takes a lot to get people out of their homes I guess, that may have something to do with Hurricane Irene that was not as serious as was first thought. Someone said to me, oh we've had high winds before, but certainly nothing like this.

ELEANOR HALL: The emergency services authorities are calling this a massive life-threatening storm. We've already heard reports of five people killed. What's the latest from the authorities there?

BEN KNIGHT: Well in fact I've heard those same reports, quite frankly I wouldn't be surprised and I think when dawn breaks tomorrow morning we're going to be finding out that there are more. But I think what is really going to be the most devastating aspect of this storm is going to be the damage.

You heard Michael Maher talking about what's happening in New York City. Thankfully I think the subways haven't been flooded yet, but that is still a possibility because we still have this high tide that's coming.

Look the damage is going to be enormous. Where I am at Rehoboth Beach, people have been coming and telling me that the board walk along the beach here, half if it is gone. There's a bridge which connects this to a nearby town, a brand new bridge only a year old, it's been destroyed.

And you're going to see that up and down this coast as well as inland. And because this is a slow moving storm, it's going to sit and blow and cause that damage across and extremely large part of the north-east United States.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you mentioned some of the difficulties there for the emergency services workers, how smoothly has the evacuation of the heavily populated areas along the east coast gone?

BEN KNIGHT: Well it's been enormously difficult. As I say you have people who didn't make the decision to go and call the emergency services until quite late and it's - the only way you can get around is in the National Guard vehicles.

They've got humvees, they've got bigger, all terrain vehicles, but even they have been having trouble getting to people. So I think at the moment we simply don't know how many people are out there in trouble, how many people - look, obviously the power's gone out and the power's likely to stay out for another few days at least because it's - not only do the repairers have to wait until the storm passes, there is going to be so much work to do to repair it.

So you'll have people out there without power, people were told to prepare but you know they might be hanging on for three or four days before that power can be restored.

ELEANOR HALL: And Ben the election is just a week away, already both the president and the Republican candidate have cancelled their campaigning schedules for the next few days. How could this hurricane affect the election result?

BEN KNIGHT: Well that of course has been the subject of some speculation at the moment, although I have seen one report that says that people were out voting along some parts of the north-eastern United States today, parts of early voting.

Look it's difficult to tell, it's going to be difficult for people to get to polling places but there is still more than a week until the actual voting day. So look the storm will pass, the repairs will be made and I think gradually people will be able to get back to some kind of normal life and by the time voting day comes around, you know, there won't be anything preventing them from getting to the polling place.

Whether people feel it's the top of their agenda? That remains to be seen.

ELEANOR HALL: Absolutely. Ben Knight there on the coast of Delaware, thankyou.