New Yorkers prepare to meet Hurricane Irene

More than 8 million New Yorkers are preparing for what could be a historic storm, as Hurricane Irene is forecast to hit the city on Saturday evening. New York officials ordered the first mandatory evacuation in the city’s history.

­On Friday New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of more than 250,000 people from key low-lying areas which are very close to the water. He called the measure the “matter of life or death.”

“We have never done a mandatory evacuation before, and we wouldn’t be doing this now if we didn’t think the storm had the potential to be very serious,” Bloomberg said at a news conference.

Public transportation in New York City, including all 468 subway stations, buses and commuter lines, will also be shut down at about noon on Saturday.  New York City’s mass transit system serves 8 million passengers a day.

Aviation officials said the five main New York City-area airports will be closed to arriving domestic and international passenger flights beginning at noon Saturday.

Some engineers believe that infrastructure of NYC may not be able to withstand power of the wind, at speeds estimated up to 100 miles (160kms) per hour,  due to its age.

All 23 Broadway musicals and plays also were canceled for Saturday and Sunday.

President Barack Obama cut short his summer vacation and has urged people to prepare for the worst and take precautions immediately.

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