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Hurricane Irene batters New York
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Aug 28, 2011

Taiwan evacuates thousands as typhoon approaches
Taipei (AFP) Aug 28, 2011 - Taiwan evacuated thousands of people from remote villages on Sunday as a typhoon which has left at least eight people dead in the Philippines approached, packing torrential rain and fierce winds.

The authorities pulled some 2,500 villagers from the east and south of the island, the Central Emergency Centre said, with Typhoon Nanmadol forecast to make landfall in eastern Taiwan on Monday morning.

A Singapore-bound flight and 22 domestic services have been cancelled while shipping transportation services between Taiwan and several offshore islands have also been interrupted.

Offices and schools will be closed on Monday.

The Central Weather Bureau urged the public to stay away from mountainous and low-lying areas as the typhoon, Taiwan's first of the year, may bring fierce wind and heavy rain, sparking flash floods and landslides.

The typhoon has dumped 300 millimetres (12 inches) of rain in the east, with total rainfall expecting to amount to 40 inches, the bureau said.

The defence ministry ordered 35,000 soldiers in the east to stand by.

At 1100 GMT, the typhoon was 60 kilometres (36 miles) southeast of the southernmost tip of Taiwan, the bureau said.

It said the storm was packing gusts of 137 kilometres an hour and moving north at 10 kilometres an hour.

Hurricane Irene lashed New York Sunday, shutting down America's largest city and flooding outlying communities after killing at least nine people along the US east coast.

The first hurricane to hit the Big Apple for a generation crashed into Manhattan's skyscrapers overnight, accompanied by lightning, reports of tornados and near horizontal walls of rain.

As Irene approached the New Jersey shore, its wind strength diminished to 75 miles (120 kilometers) an hour, at the threshold of hurricane status. But it still remained a massive storm.

The hurricane made its second landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey, just before sunrise Sunday and its eye was "nearing New York City," the National Hurricane Center said.

New York City resembled a ghost town after 370,000 people were told to evacuate flood-prone areas, including near Wall Street and at Coney Island, and mass transport was shut down.

Subway trains, buses and the famous Staten Island ferry all closed Saturday, as did all nearby airports, paralyzing the city. Part of the George Washington bridge, connecting Manhattan to New Jersey, was closed.

The immediate fear was that torrential rain, a maximum high tide and more than eight feet (2.8 meters) in wind-driven ocean surge would flood Battery Park in southern Manhattan and on into the narrow streets of the Wall Street district.

But by 1230 GMT the seawalls appeared to be mostly holding, although water lapped over the edges into a park on Manhattan's East River.

There was also severe flooding in beach resorts on Long Island, to the east of the city, and along the famed Jersey shore to to the south.

In Brooklyn, which has a long, low coastline, some streets suffered substantial flooding and the few cars about also had to negotiate a growing number of downed tree branches.

The howling winds set off a number of car alarms and police patrolled the deserted streets and outside shuttered subway stations.

While nearly all shops in the city of more than eight million people were closed, Sam Hamad decided to keep his corner store open. He reported brisk business selling New York bagels, coffee and basic groceries.

"This store is like my own home, so I decided to stay open, even though I had to drive half an hour from where I live to get here," she said.

Claudette Wright, a caregiver at a home for the sick who was heading to work in the storm, was happy to find a shop open.

"I work 16-hour days, so I need my coffee," she said.

In a dramatic press conference late Saturday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the time for evacuations was "over."

"At this point, if you haven't evacuated, our suggestion is you stay where you are," he said. "Nature is a lot stronger than the rest of us."

Irene made its first US landfall Saturday at 8:00 am (1200 GMT) at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, near a chain of barrier islands and quickly proved deadly.

At least nine people died Saturday -- in car accidents, by heart attack and by falling trees -- in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. The youngest victim, an 11-year-old boy, died when a tree crashed through his apartment building in Newport News, Virginia.

The storm then reentered the ocean off the coasts on Virginia and Maryland.

On its passage up the coast, Irene knocked out power supplies for well over a million people, triggered the cancelation of more than 8,000 flights, and forced nearly two million people to evacuate, half of them in New Jersey.

In New York, more than 70,000 people woke without electricity, especially in the outer boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, power provider Con Edison said.

Officials say Manhattan's skyscrapers are not at risk of serious damage, but warn that power outages might strand residents without light, water or elevators.

The disruption took on an international character after the area's three big airports -- John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia and Newark -- were ordered to stop all flights at 10:00 pm (0200 GMT).

The flightaware.com website, which tracks airport arrivals and departures, estimated that 8,337 flights would be canceled during the weekend, mainly US domestic trips. It warned that the figure would rise.

President Barack Obama, who cut short his summer vacation, visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency's operations center in Washington on Saturday, where he said the east coast was in for a "long 72 hours."

Obama chaired a meeting at the National Response Coordination Center set up to marshaling federal and local hurricane-relief efforts.

"This is going to be a tough slog getting through this thing," Obama said during a video teleconference including senior federal officials and local government agencies.

Some 65 million people live in the urban corridor from Washington north to Boston, and experts have said the damage could cost anything up to $12 billion to restore.

Hurricanes are rare in the northeastern United States -- the last major hurricane to hit New York was Gloria in 1985.

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Super-typhoon leaves eight dead in Philippines
Manila (AFP) Aug 28, 2011 - Super-typhoon Nanmadol killed at least eight people and left flattened bridges and blocked roads in its wake as it moved away from the Philippines and churned towards Taiwan, officials said on Sunday.

The toll of dead and missing is likely to rise as officials assess the full impact of the storm, the strongest to hit the country this year, said Emilia Tadeo of the civil defence damage report section.

"After the rains have subsided, that is only when we find the additional casualties and damages, when the local responders submit them to us," Tadeo told AFP.

Five were killed by landslides including two children buried by an avalanche of rubbish at a tip in the northern mountain city of Baguio, the civil defence office said.

Two people drowned while another was crushed by a falling wall, weakened by the rain.

A further six people are considered missing after vanishing at sea or being swept away by overflowing rivers as Nanmadol brought heavy rain to the northern Philippines, the civil defence office said.

More than 57,000 people were forced to flee their homes due to the risk of floods and landslides in the mountainous north, the office added.

President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the government had pre-positioned relief goods and rescue personnel at vulnerable areas to help those affected by the storm.

Eight bridges were destroyed and 20 major roads rendered impassable when Nanmadol hit with gusts of up to 230 kilometres (145 miles) per hour, the civil defence office added.

The typhoon had weakened after clipping the northern edge of the main Philippine island of Luzon but storm alerts remained in force on Sunday as the typhoon slowly moved towards Taiwan.

An average of 20 storms and typhoons, many of them deadly, hit the Philippines annually. The last storms, Nock-ten and Muifa, left at least 70 dead when they hit in July.

Nanmadol, named after an ancient site in Micronesia, is forecast to hit Taiwan on Tuesday before cutting across to China.

At 1100 GMT, the typhoon was 60 kilometres (36 miles) southeast of the southernmost tip of Taiwan, the island's Central Weather Bureau said.

It said the storm was packing gusts of 137 kilometres an hour and moving north at 10 kilometres an hour.

Taiwan evacuated 2,500 villagers from the east and south of the island on Sunday, the Central Emergency Centre said, with the authorities urging the public to stay away from mountainous and low-lying areas.

The defence ministry ordered 35,000 soldiers in the east to stand by.

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Hurricane Irene surges ashore on track to New York
New York (AFP) Aug 27, 2011
Hurricane Irene clobbered the US east coast Saturday, killing at least three people and paralyzing air traffic before barreling north on course for a rare direct hit on New York City. Packing winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) an hour, Irene was a weakened but still massive category one storm when it made landfall at 8:00 am (1200 GMT) at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, near a chain of barrier ... read more

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