Holidaymakers stranded in the US

The cancellation of thousands of US flights in the wake of Hurricane Irene has left thousands of Brits stranded on the US East Coast, during peak tourist season.

Flights were cancelled from all of the main airports in New York as airlines were unable to operate from four New York airports over the weekend.

A BA spokeswoman said: “Flights to and from New York JFK and Newark will be particularly badly affected after the local authorities made a decision to completely close the airports for much of the weekend.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson revealed: “We are focusing all our energy on a recovery plan to bring people back home. Because flights are already very full it will be a little while before everybody is accommodated.”

Hurricane Irene, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, has passed into Canada after causing chaos on the east coast where two million people were evacuated from their homes.

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The mayor of New York has ordered an evacuation of nearly 400,000 people living in low-lying parts of the city.

States of emergency were declared in seven states, from North Carolina to Connecticut.

More than five million people remain without power, while Vermont is has experienced its worst floods in decades.

Authorities warn that flooding could continue for up to three days in northern US states.

Meanwhile the death toll continues to rise to 40 people in the US.

It is estimated that the damage could cost £7.3 billion.

Hurricane Irene was the first hurricane to reach mainland America since 2008, when hurricane Ike reached Cape Fear in North Carolina and killed 50 people.

Irene was classified as a category-three hurricane, with winds of more than 120mph (192km/h), when it swept through the Caribbean, causing havoc last week.