As Hurricane Sandy edges its way up the US Atlantic coast, parts of New York are being evacuated in preparation. The storm has already killed 57 people in the Caribbean.
As Hurricane Sandy headed towards the East Coast of the United States on Sunday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the mandatory evacuation of 375,000 people from low-lying areas of the city.
"This is a serious and dangerous storm," Bloomberg told a news conference as he ordered the mass evacuation ahead of the storm, which is expected to start hitting the East Coast of the United States on Sunday night (local time).
In anticipation of the storm, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded that the city's transit service suspend bus and rail services across the entire network.
Cuomo said the system would be shut down from 7:00 p.m. (local time) Sunday night. No indication was given when services would resume again.
The city's transport system is the country's largest, with more than 5 million commuters using it daily.
'Frankenstorm' set to strike
Hurricane Sandy is currently headed north and is poised to hit the eastern US seaboard with torrential rain and gale-force winds.
The hurricane is likely to collide early next week with a seasonal "nor'easter" weather pattern, which forecasters say will likely increase the storm's severity, moving it west, where is it expected to hit the states of Virginia, West Virgina, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and the inland state of Ohio early Tuesday.
Meteorological forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, based in Florida, said that the rare hybrid storm is currently at Category 1 strength, the lowest level on the five-point scale.
"While little change in strength was anticipated for Sandy, which was now located south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, it was expected to remain large and powerful until it crosses the coastline," the center announced.
Hurricane Sandy has been dubbed "Frankenstorm" by forecasters because of its unusual composition of parts from different weather patterns, and the date it's expected to make landfall on, just before Halloween.
Northern US to get a battering
Meanwhile, US emergency officials are worried about the impact the storm may have on northern states.
"This is a large storm that is forecasted to impact the mid-Atlantic and other parts of the East Coast with strong winds, coastal flooding, inland flooding, rain and snow," US Federal Emergency Management Agency head Craig Fugate told the AFP news agency.
A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, a coastal county in North Carolina, and Washington, DC, the US capital.
Hurricane Sandy claimed the lives of at least 57 people as it crossed the Caribbean last week.
jlw / mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters)