As Hurricane Sandy scourges the US east coast leaving behind a trail of devastation, US President Barack Obama has declared New York and New Jersey major disaster areas.

The declaration makes federal funds available to individuals affected by the storm, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programmes to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster," Fema said.

The storm has killed at least 26 people across the US, of which 10 in New York, bringing to 94 the total number of deaths in storm-related incidents since Frankenstorm hit the Caribbean.

In New York City's borough of Queens, at least 80 homes were destroyed in a fire. About 200 firefighters were deployed.

A hospital in Manhattan had to be evacuated after its basements were flooded by the record 13ft water surge that hit the island.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the consequences of the storm will be felt for quite some time and the city's death toll is expected rise.

In New Jersey, where Atlantic City had already been severely struck by the hurricane, three other towns - Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt - were under 5ft of water and hundreds of people were evacuated over fears that a levee would be breached.

"[It was] beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.

More than seven million people have been left without power across the East Coast.