New York City officials have ordered the evacuation of more than 250,000 people and are preparing to shut down the city’s entire transport system, ain unprecedented measures ahead of the expected battering from Hurricane Irene.
The powerful and unusually large storm trudged up the United States East Coast on Friday (local time), threatening 55 million people including more than 8 million in New York City, which was expecting heavy winds on Sunday, NZ time.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered people living in low-lying areas – including the Financial District surrounding Wall Street in Manhattan – out of their homes by 5 pm on Saturday (9am tomorrow, NZ time), saying 91 emergency shelters would be open.
The transit system that carries 8.5 million people each weekday would start shutting down around noon on Saturday (4am tomorrow, NZ time), a process that could take eight hours.
“We’ve never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn’t be doing it now if we didn’t think this storm had the potential to be very serious,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo activated 900 National Guard troops, while airlines moved aircraft from the danger zone and canceled at least 1,000 flights.