New York was ghost town, say Leicestershire pupils trapped by storm Sandy
Schoolgirls caught up in the tropical storm that has battered the east coast of America have told of their night holed up in a hotel.
The teenagers from Leicester High School waited in their rooms in Times Square as fierce winds and waves buffeted the city.
A record 4m (13ft) tidal surge sent seawater cascading into large parts of New York's subway system, road tunnels and underground car parks.
A power sub-station exploded, one hospital was evacuated and fire destroyed 50 homes.
At least 16 people were reported dead across several states.
Sorcha Whyte, 17, from Market Harborough, said: "The worst part was waiting for the unknown.
"This was our first major storm and seeing the American news was alarming.
"Seeing the spread of darkness across New York as the power shut off was scary.
"Throughout the night there were fire engines whizzing up and down.
"Outside was a ghost town."
Before the storm struck the students, aged 15 to 18 stocked up with food, water, torches and batteries.
Sophie Upcraft, 17, said: "Lying in bed at midnight and hearing the silence then the beginning of the wind, with the lights flickering, was scary.
"We missed the power cut by three blocks.
"The sound of the wind was like a tube train. Eerie sirens can be heard every so often."
Angela Lancini, one of the four teachers with the party, said: "Fortunately, we missed the worst of it."
"But we were extremely lucky being in the middle of Manhattan as the high buildings sheltered us from the full force of the winds.
"We kept power on, although the lights flickered. The hotel told us to stay in our bedrooms and not to use the lifts.
"The seafront down by Battery Park and Ellis Island, which we had visited on Sunday, was badly affected."
Deputy head teacher Diana Wassell has been acting as a liaison between the pupils and their parents.
She said: "The girls have coped very well. They managed to get in vital supplies.
"The hotel has been marvellous, extending their stay and giving them advice."
Miss Wassell said the girls had managed to keep in contact with their parents on mobile phones and via e-mails, although internet connections had been affected by flooding.
The girls had to miss a tour of the White House but had seen the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.
Miss Wassell said: "Our priority is to get everyone home as soon as possible."
She said travel plans were in a state of flux as the airports were still closed.
She said: "The advice from the hotel is to stay indoors but our travel agent is looking to see if it will be possible to transfer to Washington."
The group was hoping to get a flight out of Washington today so they could arrive back in Leicester tomorrow.
Washington Dulles airport was hoping to accept incoming flights late last night and resume outbound flights today.
Leicestershire runners are still hoping to compete in the New York Marathon on Sunday.
Dominic Gomersall and his wife Kim, who run Lumbers jewellers in Leicester, are set to fly out on Friday.
Kim plans to celebrate her 50th birthday by completing the route on Sunday.
Mr Gomersall said: "We have been told the race is on and we are determined to get there and are to fly out on Friday."