Over the past 48 hours a deadly northeaster turned a 1600km stretch of the US East Coast into a wind tunnel, leaving millions without power, paralysing flooded cities and towns and claiming the lives of at least seven people - some of whom had tried in vain to take shelter from hurricane-force winds.

With the worst mostly over, people from Maine to Georgia emerged from homes to take stock of the damage yesterday.

Some of those first glimpses came in the dark. At its peak, winds had knocked out power to more than two million people, including more than 400,000 in Massachusetts and 320,000 across the state of New York. Thousands of flights were grounded at some of the country's busiest airports, causing a ripple effect of delays and cancellations around the world.

On the ground, highways across the Northeast were clogged with tractor trailers and buses, which were prohibited from crossing some of the region's massive bridges due to the treacherous winds. In smaller cities and towns, particularly those near the vulnerable coast, roads had turned into rivers.

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Europe's deep freeze, which has claimed more than 60 lives over the past week, continued to wreak havoc yesterday.

The continent has been battling heavy snowfall. Reports say conditions have marginally improved in some regions.

Temperatures were still low, forcing more major delays on roads, railways and at some airports.

Britain was braced for black ice and floods as the thaw sets in.

People walk and skate on the frozen Prinsengracht canal in downtown Amsterdam in the Netherlands during the cold weather. Picture / AP
People walk and skate on the frozen Prinsengracht canal in downtown Amsterdam in the Netherlands during the cold weather. Picture / AP

Travellers faced further disruption after four days of chaos. The Met Office said weather warnings remained in place for much of the population.

Ireland's main airports reopened yesterday, although more than 50 flights in Dublin, mainly operated by Ryanair and Aer Lingus, had already been cancelled before snow and ice teams worked through the night to clear the airfield.

Irish police charged nine people after looters raided a Lidl supermarket and smashed through the roof with a mechanical digger during a national red alert for freezing weather.

Video footage posted online showed the digger breaking through the roof of the German retailer in west Dublin on Saturday while most stores were closed because of ice, snow and winds. The Irish Independent said a gang of men apparently used the digger to try to smash open a safe at the supermarket.

Italy was also still stuck in sub-zero temperatures, with a number of major roads blocked because of snow and black ice as it holds its election.

- Washington Post, Telegraph Group, DPA, Reuters