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Irene leaves millions powerless, thousands evacuate homes

Washington: Hurricane Irene slammed eastern parts of the United States with strong winds and heavy rain, leaving millions powerless, thousands forced to evacuate, with reports of at least 10 dead and substantial damages to properties.

US President Barack Obama himself was on top of the things personally monitoring the preparedness of the hurricane Irene by his administration.

Obama, who has declared State of Emergency in eight States, held two conference calls with his top national team.

Cities in several States had declared curfew and police not allowing people come out on the streets.

Emergency shelter homes were opened in cities across the eastern Coast so that people affected by the hurricane can take shelter.

“The President asked to be kept apprised of developments throughout the night and said that he wants the group to re-convene tomorrow morning,” the White House said.

The hurricane, which had hit Washington, late yesterday is expected to reach New York City by early this morning.

“We expect a strong Category 1 storm to hit us tonight, with winds between 55 and 75 miles an hour,” the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

All the Hindu temples and gurdwaras in the region, which are normally thronged by Indian Americans on Sundays have been closed as a precautionary measure.

Metro services were suspended in several cities including New York, Washington and Boston.

As almost all the airports were shut down due to precautionary measures, thousands of flights have been cancelled.

Air India flights from New Delhi and Mumbai have been cancelled today from both the airports in New York and New Jersey, an airlines official said.

“We are urging people, if you are in an area where your governor or mayor has said there’s a mandatory evacuation order, please abide by that order. And even if you’re not in an evacuation zone, please know this is a big storm that covers a lot of territory.

“Be prepared. Have some food, flashlight, batteries, extra water, the source of things that will help you get through in case particularly power is out for some period – some period of time,” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security said.

“We are also urging people to make sure that you have enough for a few days because, as much as we are coordinated at the local, the state, the federal level, it does take time over this huge swath of territory to make sure that you repaired everything that has been affected by Irene,” Napolitano said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a prepare-to-deploy order for 6,500 active duty troops from all the services to support hurricane relief efforts if ordered.

“On requests from states for the Department to provide hurricane relief assistance, it has taken the Secretary an average of 5-7 minutes to approve them,” Pentagon spokesman, George Little said.

The US Second Fleet commander said his ships are ready to support the hurricane emergency response if requested.

“Our ships have safely maneuvered out of the way of Hurricane Irene to avoid the destructive winds and seas,” Navy Vice Admiral Daniel Holloway said in a statement.

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