US & Canada

Sandy watch: US East Coast braced for hurricane

Palm trees in the wind at Cocoa Beach, Florida (26 Oct 2012)
Image caption Low-lying coastal areas in Florida have already been hit by strong winds

People along the East Coast of the US are preparing for Hurricane Sandy, which has killed nearly 60 people across the Caribbean.

States of emergency have been declared in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC and a coastal county in North Carolina.

Sandy currently has maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120km/h) and is moving north at 11mph.

It is expected to make landfall along the eastern US coast late on Monday.

At 14:00 EDT (18:00 GMT), the eye of the storm was about 335 miles (539km) south-east of Charleston in South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect in both South and North Carolina, as well as Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.

Further strengthening possible

Sandy is expected to move along the US eastern seaboard, bringing a rise of coastal flooding.

Gale-force winds are expected to arrive along parts of the mid-Atlantic coast by Sunday evening, reaching Long Island and southern New England by Monday.

The NHC said further strengthening was possible on Sunday, before Sandy touches down anywhere between Virginia and southern New England late on Monday or early Tuesday.

Media captionMichael Bloomberg: ''Get ready, just in case''

"We're expecting a large, large storm," said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Environmental Prediction.

The US Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, has reportedly sent a whole fleet of ships out to sea to avoid possible damage caused as the storm hits land.

The threat of the storm has already led to people stocking up on supplies and political rallies ahead of the 6 November presidential election being cancelled.

Loretta Moneez, whose home in Delaware lies along the projected path of the storm, said Sandy was causing sleepless nights.

"You're just listening to the howling winds and the rain and it's always a great concern about trees coming down," she told the BBC.

'Be ready'

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has urged the city's residents to be prepared.

"If we have to make a mistake we would rather make a mistake on being cautious," he said.

Officials are already considering closing down public transport before the storm hits.

There is concern that the bad weather could affect the presidential elections by causing power cuts or preventing people from getting to the polls.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney cancelled an event scheduled for Sunday in Virginia, a key election state, because of the weather, said one of his aides.

On Friday, the White House declined to speculate on whether President Barack Obama's campaign plans would be affected, saying the storm's path was still uncertain.

Image caption New Yorkers were urged to be ready for a possible large storm

Meteorologists have warned Sandy could merge with a winter storm over the sea, creating what they have dubbed "Frankenstorm".

Up to 10in (25cm) of rain, 2ft of snow and extreme storm surges are forecast.

Earlier in the week, Sandy caused havoc as it ploughed across the Caribbean, killing 11 people in Cuba and at least 44 in Haiti.

Haitian authorities say the death toll could rise further as further assessments were made in the country, which is still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2010.

"This is a disaster of major proportions," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the Associated Press news agency. "The whole south is under water."

Four fatalities were reported across the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

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