US storm toll rises, mass outages

Tropical Storm Isaias has belted the US East coast, causing nine deaths and widespread blackouts.
Tropical Storm Isaias has belted the US East coast, causing nine deaths and widespread blackouts.

At least nine people including a 5-year-old autistic girl are dead after Tropical Storm Isaias battered the US East Coast with rain and fierce winds after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina.

Millions of people were without power on Wednesday after felled trees downed power lines.

The sound of generators and chainsaws punctuated the sunrise in New Jersey, where more than a million homes and businesses were without electricity.

NJ Transit train service remained suspended while crews cleared about 150 trees and repair signals and overhead wires.

Regional rail service was also suspended in Philadelphia after Isaias raised the Schuylkill River and sent an unsecured construction barge into a bridge.

Inspectors were checking for damage. Interstate 676, which crosses the bridge, was also closed in both directions.

Patrick Foye, chairman of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said more than 2000 trees fell across the system's train and bus network.

"This storm caused severe damage," he said. "Not since Superstorm Sandy has our system experienced this type of wind."

Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park.

Another person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream.

The 5-year-old girl had gone missing from her Philadelphia-area home during the height of the storm on Tuesday and was found dead on Wednesday.

Authorities believe she was swept away by floodwaters in the creek behind her house.

Three others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland, Connecticut and New York City, and another person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said.

A woman was found dead inside a New Hampshire house on Tuesday evening.

Isaias sustained top winds of up to 105 km/h more than 18 hours after coming ashore but they were down to 70km/h by early Wednesday.

It toggled between hurricane and tropical storm strength as it churned toward the East Coast.

Fuelled by warm ocean waters, the storm got a late burst of strength as a rejuvenated hurricane with top sustained winds of 136 km/h before coming ashore late Monday.

Before that it killed two people in the Caribbean and battered the Bahamas before brushing past Florida.

Australian Associated Press