'Gigantic' Hurricane Sandy bears down on eastern US


Tens of millions of people along the US east coast girded themselves today for Hurricane Sandy, a gigantic storm forecast to assault the densely populated region with battering winds, dangerous flooding and even heavy snowfall.

Sandy, expected to come ashore late tomorrow, could deliver a harsh blow to major cities in its target zone including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Boston. Its centre was forecast to strike New York-New Jersey area and then move inland toward Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania.

The sheer size of the storm meant its effects would be felt from the mid-Atlantic states to New England. Officials warned of widespread power outages that could last for days.

In New York City, subway, bus and train service will be suspended this evening and up to 375,000 people were ordered to evacuate from low-lying areas.

US president Barack Obama, speaking after a briefing at the federal government's storm response center in Washington, called Sandy a "serious and big storm" and asked residents to heed the orders of state and local authorities to protect themselves from its onslaught.

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