US braces for Hurricane Sandy, thousands of flights cancelled
WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama warned Americans on Sunday to take Hurricane Sandy "very seriously" as authorities prepared a virtual shutdown of the Eastern Seaboard due to the impending mega-storm.
More than 5,000 flights out of East Coast hubs were cancelled and ground transport was due to grind to a halt on Monday as non-essential government staff were told not to show up for work and public schools were closed.
"My first message is to all people across the Eastern Seaboard, mid-Atlantic going north. You need to take this very seriously," Mr Obama said, urging everyone in the vast region to heed the instructions of their local authorities.
The president, who spoke after being briefed at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), cautioned that Sandy was a slow-moving storm that certain areas would take a long time to recover from.
Residents of the densely-populated East Coast, home to 50 million Americans, stocked up on emergency provisions like batteries and water as forecasters warned of widespread damage, mass power outages and disastrous flooding.