Irene pummels the Big Apple
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At least nine people have died as Hurricane Irene sweeps through the Eastern US. The storm battered New York and New Jersey over the weekend, as winds grew to 120 kilometres per hour. More than 8,000 flights have been cancelled due to the storm and nearly two million residents along the coast have been evacuated.
The Big Apple was a ghost town on Sunday as the first hurricane in a generation hit the city, causing lightning, tornados and intense rainfall. Subways, buses and the Staten Island ferry were shut down, as were New York’s three main airports.
More than 350,000 people in the major city were told to leave areas such as Wall Street and Coney Island for their safety.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference, “This is going to be a very serious storm, no matter what the track is, no matter how much it weakens.”
As Irene moved up the eastern coast over the weekend, states like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida felt the brunt of the storm. Of the nine people who died was an 11 year-old boy, after a tree smashed through his apartment building. Others were victim to car accidents, heart attack and falling trees.
The power is out for more than one million people and officials say that number is expected to go up.
In New Jersey, shelters have been set up with the help of the American Red Cross and the US National Guard to accommodate those left stranded by the storm.
In New Brunswick, evacuees were given cots to sleep on, blankets and food to eat.
Jimmy Farrell, who arrived at the shelter from Atlantic City, told the AFP news agency, “It’s great here. But we’ve got to find out what happened when we get back home. It’s a big worry. My house might not be there.”
US President Barack Obama, who cut his summer holidays short to attend to storm services, visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington. He said the east coast was in for a “long 72 hours.”