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ELEANOR HALL: This storm pulverised the east coast at night US time yesterday, raising fears of exactly what residents and emergency workers would confront when the darkness lifted.

Our correspondent Ben Knight has managed to drive through a large part of the storm zone from Delaware to New York and he joins us now in Manhattan.

Ben, you were there in Delaware when the storm hit. What did daylight reveal as you drove up the coast to New York?

BEN KNIGHT: Well, Eleanor, we left the storm shelter that we'd been staying in just before dawn and the first thing that we encountered was a power line over the road, which had us a little bit worried about what the rest of the trip was going to be like.

Fortunately, that was the only one that we saw.

Mind you, not that we saw much on the road at all, in terms of other cars.

It was probably about a four or five hour drive from Delaware up to Manhattan, when we'd finally managed to find a way in, because of course most of the bridges and tunnels were closed.

But there really weren't very many cars on the road at all.

What there was on the road was just trash - vegetation, debris, stuff that had been blown around by the storm, but it was very, very, very quiet until we actually arrived in Manhattan itself - well, in fact, that was still quite quiet.

I don't think - if you've lived in New York, you would've relished a traffic day like that, but not under these circumstances.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, you're now in New York City - tell us about your first impressions of Manhattan after the storm.

BEN KNIGHT: Well, the first thing we did was to head down to lower Manhattan, which of course is where the water washed over the seawall down there at Battery Park and washed up.

We went down there and all we could see were people in hard hats, running generators, trucks, pipes.

This was a massive - not so much a clean-up operation yet, all they're doing at the moment is simply trying to get the water out.

And we're talking about just about every building in that lower part of Manhattan, which is all without power.

And so now that night's fallen, it would be very interesting to have a look at one of those satellite pictures from the sky.

You would see, I think, the top half of Manhattan all brightly lit and the bottom half completely dark, almost like you're looking at one of those pictures of North and South Korea at night on the satellite.

Now that's a bit of a concern for police as well - the question has been raised, this is the first night after the storm, there is no power down there, what's the safety situation like?

Well Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, we're just simply going to put lots and lots of police on the ground and they'll have portable lights.

The damage is there - it's not so much damage to the buildings, it's damage to the inside of the buildings.

Obviously, on the outside of the buildings you can see where the watermark is, and it comes up around my waist height.

But what's inside the buildings, if you have a look inside every shop, every foyer of every office building, it's completely devastated by this water.

And so the buildings themselves don't need to be replaced, but the insides of those - the shops, the boutiques, whatever it is, will all need to be replaced.

Now you replicate that shop by shop, street by street, city by city and town by town along the north-eastern coast of the United States, and you start to get a sense of just what the economic impact of this storm is going to be.

ELEANOR HALL: It's quite extraordinary, the way that you describe Manhattan there.

What about the people who are coming onto the streets, are they in shock?

BEN KNIGHT: Well, honestly, today most of the people that we saw were tourists who were down there or locals who had come down.

And the locals who had come down to have a look at the Battery tunnel full to the brim with water - an unimaginable amount of water that needs to be just pumped out somehow, no idea how long that's going to take.

But some of them were stunned, all of them were amazed, some of them were bemused, and remember, this is the morning after the night before. This is the morning after the storm.

So, they were just taking their first steps out into their city, the city that we all know, whether we've been here or not, everyone knows Manhattan, and we know it's cosmopolitan, and it's brassy, and it's beautiful - well it wasn't today.

And for these people to wake up and come out into the light and see what had happened was really quite stunning for them I think.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, the president has been warning that this storm is not finished yet.

There is another high tide forecast for New York Harbour tonight - is there a lot fear about that?

BEN KNIGHT: I don't think there will be, because there's not the high winds and there's not the high rain, and it was the high winds and the high rain that pushed the water up.

In fact it pushed it onto Manhattan Island and onto parts of New Jersey and other boroughs in New York from several directions at once. So once again, just another aspect of this perfect storm that people talk about.

So I don't think there's going to be much concern about that.

The concern, I think, is that these are not good conditions to be doing rescues in, because let's not forget, there are rescues still going on.

And we heard in Brendan's story there about the struggles and the operations that are going on.

Well, it's now the night after the storm, and there are still people who are stuck in their houses with no power and no way of getting out.

The temperature is going to get down to around five degrees every night for the rest of this week.

The temperature during the day is only going to get up to around 14 or 15 degrees at most, so if you're in a house, no power, with your ankles in water, it's pretty unpleasant conditions.

And so these rescues have to keep going on through the night.

ELEANOR HALL: Yes, freezing cold and no power.

Around 300,000 people did leave the city - is there any indication on when they'll be coming back?

BEN KNIGHT: Well, the big questions are - well the first one is when does the power come back on? And today, we did not get any answers on that.

The answer they gave was, "well hang on, we need to know what the extent of the damage is first, before we can even - it'll be days before we can even begin to start repairing this".

So for people who've left, there's not a lot of reason to come back at the moment. For a start, your house - it has no power, probably has no water.

If you work in Manhattan, then your office is probably shut if it's in lower Manhattan - there's nothing here for you.

So it's going to take at least days, possibly weeks, before the entire lower part of Manhattan is completely reconnected to power.

The subway - it's flooded. They released some pictures tonight which showed the extent of the damage.

You've got o get the water out, you've got to dry it out, you've got to repair all of the infrastructure that's in there before you can actually get those things going again.

Look, there's some bus services that have started running today, that's a positive thing. Some train services, intercity train services, have started running again, but this city is going to be a long, long way from getting back to normal, and if you aren't in a screaming hurry to get back, I don't think many people will be doing so.

ELEANOR HALL: Ben Knight there in Manhattan, our correspondent. Thank you.