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US East Coast braces for Hurricane Irene

US East Coast braces for Hurricane Irene
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Hundreds of thousands of people are getting out of the path of Hurricane Irene as it closes in on the US Atlantic coast. Others are preparing to ride out the storm which President Barack Obama has warned could be “historic.”

Seven states have declared emergencies as 55 million Americans on the eastern seaboard brace for Irene’s arrival. It is set to move northwards over the weekend, towards Washington and New York.

In an unprecedented step, New York is shutting

down its public transport system at noon on Saturday. Its main airports will closed to arrivals. Thousands of flights have already been cancelled. A quarter of a million New Yorkers have been ordered to leave low-lying areas.

The first hurricane of the Atlantic season, Irene has weakened to a category two storm since causing chaos and at least three deaths in the Caribbean. But the risks remain high and, with the horrors of Hurricane Katrina still fresh in many minds, the US is taking no chances.