THE human cost of superstorm Sandy that hit the US and the Caribbean became clearer as the death toll reached 157, with at least 44 dead in New York.

But many more remain unaccounted for as search and rescue efforts continue.

The missing had included two boys ripped from their mother's arms by the fierce waves on New York's Staten Island.

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But yesterday it was confirmed the bodies of Connor Moore, four, and Brandon Moore, two, were found 20 yards apart in a marsh.

Their mother, Glenda, 39, told police her children were swept away on Monday shortly after 6pm as the storm arrived.

The family had been leaving Staten Island, heading for Brooklyn, as their car was disabled by water, the police said.

"She was holding onto them, and the waves just kept coming and crashing and they were under," a family member said. "It went over their heads... she had them in her arms and a wave came and swept them out of her arms."

"Terrible. Absolutely terrible," said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "It just compounds all the tragic aspects of this horrific event."

The heartbreaking discovery was made as it emerged that of the 157 killed by Sandy, 88 were in the US and 67 in Caribbean states. North of the Caribbean, New York was worst affected with 44 deaths, with 12 fatalities in New Jersey, 10 in Maryland, nine in Pennsylvania, five in West Virginia, four in Connecticut, and two in Virginia, North Carolina and Canada.

Bodies included that of 87-year-old Hugo Senpo, who was found face down in his flooded Coney Island living room.

The body of 13-year-old Andrea Dresch was added to the lethal legacy, pulled from the debris of a house in Staten Island that was swallowed by a tidal surge. Her father is still missing.

Elsewhere on Staten Island, neighbours heard screams coming from the homes of Anastasia Rispoli, 73, and Beatrice Spagnola, 80, but the flood water kept them from saving the pair, who died.

"I could hear them crying for help but nobody could help because the water was coming so fast," said neighbour Mark Stoin.

John Filipowicz, 51, and his 20-year-old son John were found dead in the basement of their home after it was flooded.

Some victims heeded calls to stay at home but still did not survive. Rick Gold, 68, a postal worker, and mother-of-three Nancy Sorenson, 57, went down to the basement of their homes nine blocks apart in a street in the New York borough of Queens, and never came back up.

A number of deaths were caused by the storm surge, downed electrical lines and cold weather.

Lauren Abraham, 23, was killed on Monday in Queens when she stepped on a collapsed electrical line in a puddle, while 86-year-old Theresa Schlitzer died of hypothermia after she was found unconscious in her yard in Pennsylvania. Mrs Schlitzer died on Tuesday after spending nearly 12 hours outside in the storm, a coroner said.

It is estimated around 4.6 million people are still without power in the eastern US and there are fuel shortages across the region.

As limited subway services returned to New York, the National Guard was due to deliver a million meals and bottled water to residents affected by the storm.

Sandy could cost the US £31 billion, double the previous estimate.