Hurricane Bill Skirts US Coast

Washington, Aug 24 (DPA) : Heavy storms and rain lashed the US' northern Atlantic Coast as Hurricane Bill rolled toward Canada after sweeping across Bermuda.

Three people were rescued from the Atlantic by the US Coast Goard after being surprised by a large wave and washed into the ocean in the northeastern state of Maine, media reports said.

A large crowd had gathered in Acadia National Park to watch the turbulent sea, stirred up by the hurricane. The sudden, large wave caught several of the spectators, all but three of whom were able to save themselves.

The three rescued people and several others were reportedly injured.

The US National Weather Service described Bill as "racing toward Newfoundland", where tropical storm warnings were effect. Similar warnings were in place for parts of two other Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

The storm passed the coast on one of the last weekends of the summer holidays, particularly disrupting beach-goers.

Warnings were issued against swimming along much of the US East coasts as the storm stirred up dangerous currents. Around 70 swimmers - including 50 alone off the Mid-Atlantic state of Delaware - had to be rescued from the sea, CNN reported.

The daily News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, reported waves Sunday of four metres or more.

The storm continued to lose strength late Sunday as it moved over cooler waters. The first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, Bill was about 375 km west of Cape Race, Newfoundland, around 2300 GMT.

The storm was moving toward the northeast at 56 km per hour and gaining speed, typical of weakening hurricanes. It had maximum sustained winds of nearly 120 km per hour and remained a category one hurricane but was likely to be downgraded to a tropical storm by Monday.

Bill was expected to approach land late Sunday, bring up to 10 centimetres of rain to southeastern Newfoundland, with smaller totals across the Canadian Maritimes.

President Barack Obama and his family delayed their arrival Sunday on the Massachusetts resort island of Martha's Vineyard by several hours, due to tropical storm warning in effect as Hurricane Bill passed some 300 km off the coast.

While flying to Cape Cod aboard Air Force One, the presidential plane, Obama spokesman Bill Burton gave reporters in the travelling press pool "specific instructions from the president".

"He wants you to relax and have a good time," Burton said. "Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody is looking to make any news, so he's hoping that you guys can enjoy Martha's Vineyard while we're there."


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