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Irene brings international flight chaos
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Aug 27, 2011

New York city airports to shut down during hurricane
New York (AFP) Aug 27, 2011 - The three major New York city area airports will suspend all flights Saturday because of Hurricane Irene, officials said.

The shutdown at John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia and Newark will take effect at 10:00 pm (0200 GMT), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.

The closures will add to paralysis in one of the world's busiest air hubs. Already in advance of Irene, all arrivals had been cancelled and departures were restricted.

Similar disruption hit airports all the way up the east coast as Irene headed north.

Rail traffic across the eastern United States also came to a standstill and public transport in the New York region was halted. In New York City, it was the first shutdown ever caused by a weather disaster.

Hurricane Irene brought international travel chaos Saturday with thousands of flights cancelled, while New York shut down its transport system fearing widespread flooding.

Many airlines cancelled flights to New York, Washington and other eastern US airports as far south as Miami, Florida as Irene charged up the coast.

British Airways, Air France, American Airlines, Continental and major Asian airlines cancelled scores of flights to and from Europe and Asia, while thousands of domestic flights fell victim to the killer storm.

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

It said there were 871 cancellations at New York's John F Kennedy airport, 836 at Newark airport, 385 at New York's La Guardia airport, 271 at Baltimore-Washington airport and 257 already cancelled at Philadelphia which was to close on Saturday night.

New York area airports closed to arrivals at midday local time while many carriers decided not to risk departures.

An Air France spokesman in Paris said that the company's flights to and from New York were not expected to resume before Monday.

Rail traffic across the eastern United States also came to a standstill and public transport in the New York region was halted. In New York City, it was the first shutdown ever caused by a weather disaster.

Subway rail stations were roped off after the final trains left. New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was unable to say when trains and buses would start again.

The last bus rides were free and no tolls were charged on New York bridges Saturday to help those evacuating low-lying areas.

The hurricane is expected to hit New York City on Saturday night.

The New York subway is one of the world's biggest with 468 stations served by some 6,380 cars. There are also about 5,900 city buses.

The MTA has particular concerns about the 13 subway tunnels that go under the rivers that surround Manhattan. Authorities have also said bridges will close once wind speeds go over 60 miles (96 kilometers) an hour.

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Navy ships avoid storm, poised for relief effort: US
Washington (AFP) Aug 27, 2011 - Dozens of US Navy ships in the Atlantic moved out of the path of Hurricane Irene and are now poised to help with relief efforts in coastal areas battered by the storm, officials said Saturday.

The US Second Fleet said 38 ships, including 27 vessels that were pulled out of the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia to avoid potential damage, had managed to stay away from Irene's powerful winds and high seas, the Navy said in a statement.

"The ships have safely moved around the storm and are now coming in behind it, prepared to provide any requested support," it said.

Vice Admiral Daniel Holloway, commander of the Virginia-based US Second Fleet, said an array of ships and aircraft were at the ready to carry out search and rescue efforts, medical services and air transport as needed.

The vessels included amphibious ships with fleets of helicopters and the aircraft included P-3 Orion surveillance planes able to deliver video images of coastal areas hit by Hurricane Irene to assess the storm's damage.

Naval diving and construction units were also at the ready, officials said.

The US military has made available up to 101,000 National Guard troops to states on the East Coast while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Saturday issued a prepare-to-deploy order for 6,500 active duty troops to support relief efforts.

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Obama takes charge at hurricane command center
Washington (AFP) Aug 27, 2011
US President Barack Obama warned Saturday the US east coast was in for a "long 72 hours" as he led his government's response to Hurricane Irene at a disaster command center in Washington. Obama chaired a meeting at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) set up at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, which is marshaling federal and local hur ... read more

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