375k told to evacuate NY ahead of storm

New York authorities have ordered mandatory evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents as Hurricane Sandy closes in on the US east coast.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday that some 375,000 people in a number of coastal areas, including Coney Island, lower Manhattan, and parts of the Queens neighborhood, would need to leave their homes ahead of the terrifying megastorm.

“If you don’t evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you,” he said, adding, “This is a serious and dangerous storm.”

New York City’s subway, bus, and train services will be suspended on Sunday evening due to the risk of flooding.

Forecasters say the hurricane could be the biggest storm to hit the US mainland.

Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate warned that Hurricane Sandy was heading up the Atlantic Coast and was on a collision course with two other weather systems.

Tens of thousands of people along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other endangered zones were also under orders to clear out because of as much as a foot (30 centimeters) of rain, gusty winds of 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour), and a potentially deadly tidal surge of 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters).

Thousands of flights to and from airports along the US east coast have already been cancelled and thousands more are expected to be grounded on Monday.

At the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama described the storm as “serious and big” and urged people to listen to their local officials.

“My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously,” Obama said.

According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Sandy was at Category 1 strength, packing 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour) winds, about 250 miles (400 kilometres) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving northeast at 14 miles per hour (22.5 kilometers per hour) as of 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Sunday.

It has been described as a hybrid “super storm” created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm.

The storm has killed at least 65 people since Wednesday, mostly in Haiti, as it was charging through Caribbean islands.