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  Hurricane Irene lashes New York
 
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28/08/11  Hurricane Irene hit New York early Sunday, as rain and stronger winds began to lash the city, flooding major roads and almost emptying the favourite tourist destination — Times Square.

Conditions are expected to deteriorate rapidly,” a tired-looking Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference, urging people to stay indoors. “The storm is now finally hitting New York City. The winds will increase, the rain will increase and the tidal surge will increase.”

By all accounts, most heeded his plea to shelter in place, but Times Square still proved irresistible to some tourists who had nothing better to do.”The edge of the hurricane is finally upon us,” he told the press conference.

Bloomberg said that with mandatory evacuation orders handed to some 370,000 people in low-lying neighbourhoods and public transport completely shut down, “the time for evacuations is over.”

“At this point, if you haven’t evacuated, our suggestion is you stay where you are.”

“The bottom line is the storm is now starting to hit New York City,” he said. “Nature is a lot stronger than the rest of us.”

The hurricane has already killed at least eight people, including an 11-year-old boy killed by a falling tree, along the US east coast, cut power supplies to nearly a million.

Packing winds of up to 85 miles (140 kilometers) an hour, Irene was a weakened but still deadly category one storm when it made landfall Saturday morning at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, near a chain of barrier islands.

Irene knocked out power supplies for some 900,000 people, triggered the cancellation of more than 8,000 flights, and forced nearly two million people to evacuate.

Bloomberg ordered the unprecedented evacuation of some 370,000 people from flood-prone neighborhoods, while in next-door New Jersey the Governor Chris Christie ordered more than a million people out of their homes.

New York Authorities also shut down the entire Subway and bus system, turning the sprawling city into a ghost town as the leading edge of Irene swept over.

Officials said the biggest danger was to be from flooding caused not just by tropical rainfall but a surge of wind-driven seawater pushing up from the Atlantic.

Officials say Manhattan’s skyscrapers are not at risk of serious damage, but warn that power outages might strand residents without light, water or elevators.

The disruption took on an international character after the area’s three big airports — John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia and Newark — were ordered to stop all flights at 10:00pm (0700 PST Sunday).
 
 
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