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One North Carolina resident leaves a message for Hurricane Irene while preparing for the storm. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

NYC mayor orders mandatory evacuation ahead of Irene

“All indications point to this being a historic hurricane,” US President Barack Obama said today, calling on residents to heed hurricane warnings.

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR Michael Bloomberg has ordered the mandatory evacuation of all low-lying city areas ahead of the projected arrival of Hurricane Irene later this weekend.

He said this is the first time in the city’s history that such an order has been issued.

The announcement comes after Bloomberg called for nursing homes and five hospitals in certain parts of the city and warned residents that they could be ordered to leave by Saturday.

Hurricane Irene brought heavy rainfall to parts of North Carolina today as it continued moving up the coast and is due to make landfall in that state by Saturday. It’s expected to reach New York by late Sunday before moving on towards New England. About 6.8 million people live in New York city’s boroughs.

People living in the vicinity of the storm’s possible path are being advised to prepare for the storm.

The storm has weakened slightly as it travels northwards, but is still forecast to have wind speeds of up to 160kph (100mph) by the time it comes ashore.

Hundreds of thousands of airline passengers are unable to travel this weekend after over 1,000 flights were cancelled because of Irene. President Barack Obama, who was on holidays at Martha’s Vineyard, cut his break short today to return to the White House and prepare for the storm.

The president urged people not to delay and to “take precautions now”. “All indications point to this being a historic hurricane,” Obama said.

Public transport in NYC, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are being suspended over the weekend because of the hurricane.

Limerick’s Conor Niland qualified for the US Open tennis tournament and is due to play tomorrow, though it is not clear if the matches will be suspended as a result of Irene.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Read and watch: ‘Don’t wait until the last minute’: New Yokrers evacuate over storm >

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