US East Coast braced for Hurricane Irene

Six US East Coast states have declared emergencies, including New York and North Carolina, in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

The Category 3 storm storm which is 700 miles wide continues to gather strength, with winds of up to 115mph,

Six states along the east coast of the US, from North Carolina to New York, have declared emergencies ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina have ordered evacuations.

Meanwhile states of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

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Amtrak and major U.S. airlines have cancelled routes and flights. American Airlines canceled 126 flights Thursday, according to a spokesperson. More flights are expected to be cancelled today.

Irene, which is the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, is expected to hit North Carolina on Saturday, where residents have been boarding up their houses.

In New York City, mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier warned residents of the low-lying and beach-front districts to find a place to stay on higher ground for the weekend.

Hurricane Wilma was the last major hurricane to strike the United States in 2005 as a Category 3 storm.

Caribbean Travel

Irene has already caused havoc among holidaymakers in the Caribbean.

In Puerto Rico, Serenade of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean, was due to leave port at 20:30 on Sunday, but was instructed to depart at 17:30.

The line said that 145 people were unable to board the vessel – with many forced to make their own arrangements to rejoin the vessel in Aruba.

At the same time, about 300 vacationers missed the departure of the 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory, which was supposed to leave San Juan at 22:00 but was instructed to depart at 18:00.

Resorts in Turks & Caicos have also been forced to close following the impact of the storm.

In an illustration of the power of the storm, some 90 per cent of the homes on one remote Bahaman island - Acklins Island – were destroyed during a single night.