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US chaos and misery in Irene trail
Millions marooned and without electricity, while New York faces travel chaos in wake of storm that left dozens dead.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2011 09:58
People were urged to stay indoors while the storm swept through New York[AFP]

Millions of people are marooned and without electricity after tropical storm Irene drenched northeastern parts of the United States.

Downgraded currently to a post-tropical storm, Irene pelted eastern Canada with rain and 80-kph winds after killing more than 44 people in the US.

It cut power to five million homes and businesses and choked towns with floodwaters.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there were no reports of deaths or injuries in New York, though there were some close calls.

On Staten Island, firefighters with boats rescued more than 60 people including three babies from 21 homes flooded with 1.5 metres of water.

On Monday, New Yorkers faced travel chaos with expected delays and overcrowding.

Most of the commuter rail services feeding the city were out indefinitely.

Wall Street was largely unaffected as was Ground Zero, where the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks is soon to be observed.

Financial markets would be open for normal trading, but volume is expected to be low.

Suburban New Jersey and rural Vermont were hit particularly hard. Both states were inundated with rain after an unusually wet summer season left the ground soaked and rivers swelled even before the storm rumbled through.

"It's very serious for us at the moment in Vermont. The top two-thirds of the state are inundated with rapidly rising waters, which we anticipate will be an issue for the next 24 hours," said Robert Stirewalt of the Vermont Emergency Management Agency.

'We dodged a bullet'

The state's many waterways were overflowing, prompting hundreds of evacuations, and about 40,000 to 50,000 people were without power.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie said "we dodged a bullet" after dire predictions failed to produce a catastrophe. But he urged people to stay home as the state recovered and pieced together its battered transit system.

"If you don't have to go to work tomorrow, don't go to work tomorrow," Christie told a news conference. "Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day to travel around the State of New Jersey."

Parts of upstate New York were still experiencing severe flooding and Governor Andrew Cuomo urged residents of affected areas to follow the directions of emergency officials.

"I urge residents of the Schoharie Valley and near the Mohawk River to take extreme caution overnight and tomorrow. Follow the directions of local emergency officials. If ordered to evacuate you should do so without hesitation," he said in a a statement.

It was not immediately clear how much Irene would cost, but in New Jersey alone the damage was expected in "the billions of dollars," Christie told NBC's "Meet the Press."

This year has been one of the most extreme for weather in US history, with $35bn in losses so far from floods, tornadoes and heat waves.

Source:
Agencies
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