US & Canada

Irene: New York recovers as storm evacuation ends

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Media captionOfficials warned that the storm remained dangerous - as New Yorkers breathed a sigh of relief

Hundreds of thousands of evacuated New Yorkers are being allowed back home after a weakening Tropical Storm Irene passed without extensive damage.

Fears of major flooding have subsided and New York's stock exchanges are due to open on Monday, even if public transport and flights remain suspended.

But President Obama has warned that the effects of Irene are "not over yet".

After causing widespread destruction along the US eastern seaboard, it is forecast to hit Canada early on Monday.

At least 11 deaths have been linked to the powerful storm, which destroyed buildings in North Carolina and Virginia, and left millions without power.

The storm was classified as a category three hurricane, carrying winds of more than 120mph (192km/h), when it swept through the Caribbean last week but later weakened, being downgraded to a tropical storm as it reached New York.

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that while there was still a way to go with Irene, the "worst of the storm has passed", adding that the precautions taken had "dramatically decreased" the threat to lives along the eastern US.

But National Hurricane Center director Bill Read warned that heavy rains meant there was still a major flooding risk to river systems, especially in New England.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lifted evacuation orders affecting 370,000 people. But public transport and flights from the city's main airports remain suspended while officials assess the damage caused by the storm.

Power cuts

Mayor Bloomberg said: "All in all, we are in pretty good shape because of the measures we took."

He said the subway system would remain closed until safety inspections were complete and admitted Monday's would be a "tough commute". Officials said air travel would remain suspended until late afternoon on Monday at the earliest.

Mr Bloomberg appealed for patience from those desperate to get back to homes and defended the measures taken to protect citizens.

"We're just not going to take any risks with people's lives. The best scenario is that you take the precautions and they're not needed."

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan, in New York's Battery Park, says the city felt the full force of the storm, whose arrival coincided with a high tide.

Our correspondent said a feared storm surge on New York's Hudson River was about 5ft (1.5m) high. There had been concerns that floodwaters might affect underground New York - its subway system and the network of cables that power the city.

It is clear why 370,000 people in low-lying areas of the city were ordered to evacuate - because who wanted to take chances when the water rose to the extent that it did, our correspondent adds.

The north-eastern seaboard is the most densely populated corridor in the US. More than 65 million people live in major cities from Washington DC in the south to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston further north.

President Barack Obama cut short his holiday on Martha's Vineyard to co-ordinate efforts to deal with the storm and on Sunday held a video conference for an update on the response to the storm. He is expected to make a statement later on Sunday.

Correspondents say the president is very keen to avoid any of the criticism that surrounded the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina six years ago.

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