New York city cancelled its annual marathon today, reversing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's earlier decision to go forward with Sunday's race despite the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy.

It had become a controversial issue for residents frustrated by the disastrous aftermath of the storm.

The decision came after a growing number of storm victims, some runners, and other politicians criticised Mr Bloomberg's decision earlier in the week to go forward with the marathon, one of the world's most popular sporting events.

They said the race, which had been expected to draw more than 40,000 runners, would divert critical police and other resources.

Mr Bloomberg, hours after he repeated plans for the race to take place, issued a statement in which he said the event had become a "source of controversy and division" and would be cancelled.

Some people had set up online petitions calling for runners to boycott the race, or to run backward from the starting line in protest.

Four days after Sandy smashed into the eastern US, rescuers were still discovering the extent of the death and devastation in New York and the New Jersey shore.

The total killed in one of the biggest storms to hit the US increased by a third to 98.

In New York city, 40 people have been found dead, half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water on Monday.

Among the dead in Staten Island were two brothers, aged two and four, who were swept from their mother's arms after her car stalled in rising flood waters.

Their bodies were found near each other in a marshy area yesterday.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island amid angry claims by some survivors that the borough had been ignored.

Scenes of angry storm victims could complicate matters for politicians, from President Barack Obama just four days before the general election, to governors and mayors in the most heavily populated region in the United States.

Mr Obama so far has received praise for his handling of Sandy.

There is growing anger over fuel shortages, power outages and waits for relief supplies.

Even before dawn, long lines of cars snaked around petrol stations around the area, and police were in place at many spots to keep the peace between furious, frustrated drivers.

In one instance, a man was charged in the New York city borough of Queens with threatening another driver with a gun after he tried to cut in on a line of cars waiting for petrol.

Forecasts for colder temperatures only added to the tension, since many in New Jersey and elsewhere have been using fuel-powered generators to run lights and heaters while waiting for utilities to repair downed power lines.

At a Hess Station late last night in Fairfield, New Jersey, people waited more than three hours to fill their cars and petrol cans. Four police officers directed traffic.

While power was expected to be returned throughout Manhattan by tomorrow, it could be another week or more in suburbs and more distant towns along the coast.

About 4.5 million homes and businesses in 15 US states remain without power.