Washington, Aug 28 (IANS): Bearing down on major US East Coast cities, including Washington, Philadelphia and New York, Hurricane Irene knocked out power in more than a million homes and forced millions off the New Jersey shore alone.
Though weakened somewhat since coming ashore early Saturday near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, Irene is continuing its relentless march up north with sustained winds around 80 mph and extending 85 miles from its centre.
Slowly losing more strength, Irene which has claimed nine lives so far in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, is expected to remain a hurricane until it once again makes landfall Sunday afternoon in southern New England, forecasters said.
In Virginia, more than 600,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said. Officials warned people to be prepared to be without power for up to a week.
More than one million people on the Jersey shore had joined untold numbers of others from the Carolinas to New England in moving inland or to higher ground, away from the storm's worst impacts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.
New York, where the city ordered the unprecedented evacuation of 370,000 people from low-lying areas of all five of the city's boroughs, including Queens, home to the largest concentration of Indian Americans in the US, Friday residents are bracing for Irene's fury as it slams the city Sunday.
The city's transit system, shut down Saturday, may not be fully running again until Monday at the earliest, high-rise buildings are being instructed to turn off elevators and utility ConEd may have to cut power to Manhattan, Bloomberg said.
Authorities in communities across North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland announced curfews. Some banned the sale of alcohol. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a state of emergency, telling residents to be prepared to go without power for up to two weeks.
Boston has joined New York, New Jersey and the cities of Philadelphia and Baltimore in suspending all transit service, including subways and buses on Sunday. Philadelphia International Airport will remain closed from 10:30 p.m. Saturday until at least 4 p.m. Sunday.