New York, USA: The US East Coast braced itself to weather one of the worst storms in decades as Hurricane Sandy churned towards the densely populated areas of New York, Washington and Boston and threatened to dump inches of rain and snow, prompting evacuation of thousands of residents.
New York authorities ordered the evacuation on Sunday of 3,75,000 people from low-lying coastal areas as the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy forced the entire eastern seaboard into lockdown mode.
More than 7,400 flights out of east coast hubs were cancelled and ground transport was due to grind to a halt on as non-essential government staff were told not to show up for work and public schools were shuttered.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New York and governors of the states in the path of the monster storm ordered mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas.
The hurricane was expected to make landfall in the New York/New Jersey area early. New York ordered shut down of its mass transit system, which caters to millions of passengers daily, beginning last evening, the second time in 14 months that the public transport system was brought to a halt.
Hurricane Sandy brought back memories of the hurricane Irene that had pounded the eastern seaboard last August, resulting in similar shutdowns, mass evacuations and power outages for millions.
“My first message is to all people across the eastern seaboard, mid-Atlantic going north. You need to take this very seriously,” Mr Obama said, urging 50 million Americans across the region to heed the advice of local authorities.
The President, who spoke after being briefed at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), cautioned that Sandy was a slow-moving storm that certain areas would take a long time to recover from.
“The time for preparing and talking is about over,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate warned. “People need to be acting now.”
“We have a plan to keep you and all New Yorkers safe. If you follow that plan, we’ll get through this storm just fine. If you don’t, people’s lives are in danger. Not only yours, but the people who might be called to rescue you in an emergency,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a press conference.
“I can’t stress enough that this is for your own safety, and that if you refuse to evacuate, you’re not only putting yourself at risk, but also the first responders who will have to assist you in an emergency,” he said.(Agencies)