by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Aug 27, 2011
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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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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