UK & World News
Hurricane Sandy: 'Frankenstorm' Heads For New York
New Yorkers are being warned to prepare for the worst as deadly "superstorm" Sandy bears down on the city.
There were chaotic scenes on 8th Avenue, where the facade of a four-storey apartment building collapsed as conditions in the city worsened.
The New York Daily News reported that there were no injuries in the 25-unit building, where the interiors of apartments were left completely exposed.
Heavy rain and strong winds have started lashing the northeast of the US, with the public safety director of Atlantic City declaring that the majority of his city is "underwater" and oil companies shutting down operations in coastal areas.
Ocean City, Maryland, was among the first heavily-populated areas to suffer serious damage and flooding, and the state's governor Martin O'Malley predicted: "There will be people who die and are killed in this storm."
As forecasters warn New York could bear the brunt of the one-of-a-kind storm - dubbed a "Frankenstorm" - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave last-minute advice to citizens before the "massive" hurricane hits.
With Sandy just a few hours away from hitting the locked-down city, he urged people to stay indoors and warned: "The time for relocation is over."
The Mayor said the storm was approaching "faster than expected" and said conditions were "dangerous and will only get worse".
Earlier, he said around 3,000 people have reached 76 emergency public shelters around the city, with a combination of the storm surge, coastal flooding and a ferocious blizzard posing the greatest threat.
Police evacuated the upper floors of buildings - including a hotel - after a crane collapsed and was left dangling over streets at one of Manhattan's most prestigious apartment blocks.
Officials announced New York's major bridges would close from Monday evening with only the Staten Island bridges left unaffected, amid fears that high winds could cause vehicles to flip over.
Sandy - a category one hurricane with winds of about 90mph (150kph) - is on a collision course with two other weather systems leading to fears it could develop into one of the worst storms on record in the US.
The storm is threatening up to 50 million people on the heavily populated East Coast, and forecasters say it could wreak havoc over 800 miles (1,280km) from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes and cause $20bn (£12.5bn) of damage.
Authorities are warning New York could be hit with an 11ft (3.3-metre) wall of water that could swamp parts of lower Manhattan, flood subway tunnels and cripple the network of electrical and communications lines that are vital to the nation's financial centre.
:: Live Updates on Hurricane Sandy
The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said it strengthened as it turned toward the coast on a predicted path toward New York, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia, moving at around 28 mph (44kph).
The centre of the storm is expected to come ashore on Monday night in New Jersey, meaning the worst of the storm surge could be in the northern part of that state and in New York City and on Long Island.
The massive storm, which is hundreds of miles across, is set to stay until at least mid-week, bringing hurricane winds, flooding rains and snow in the Appalachian mountains.
Hundreds of thousands of people have already evacuated coastal areas, but much focus remains on New York.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged residents to use common sense and stay indoors.
"The worst is still coming," he said.
New York and other cities shut down schools and suspended all train, bus and subway services on Sunday night because of the risk of flooding.
Nearly the entire coastline of Staten Island has been evacuated. Parts of lower Manhattan, like Battery Park and Ground Zero, have also been evacuated amid the threat of flooding.
All US stock markets will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, the operator of the New York Stock Exchange said, reversing an earlier plan that would have kept electronic trading going on Monday.
Britons living in New York described people stocking up on supplies for when the storm hits.
Divya Samtani, 22, from London, said: "Everyone is freaking out. Flashlights are sold out everywhere, queues are really long in the supermarkets and all the hardware shops are closed. We're all kind of hanging in there and waiting."
Novelist Philip Hensher, 47, said the main fear was of power cuts, with doormen taking ladders into lifts in case they break down.
A state of emergency has already been declared in nine states - including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts - and one million people had lost power before the storm made landfall.
US President Barack Obama cancelled a planned campaign appearance in Florida and returned to Washington to oversee the federal government's response to the ever-threatening hurricane.
In a statement from the White House, he told those affected "do not delay", if asked to evacuate from their homes ahead of a storm with "potentially fatal" consequences.
He said he was not worried about the impact of the crisis on the election and said: "This is going to be a big storm, a difficult storm, but the great thing about America is when we go through times like this we all pull together."
His election rival Mitt Romney announced he would cancel planned campaign appearances on Monday night and throughout Tuesday as the nation's attention turns to the storm.
Airlines have cancelled more than 7,600 flights, with British Airways, Virgin and American Airlines have halted departures to the eastern coat of the US.
As the hurricane approached the coast, rescuers have saved 14 crew members of HMS Bounty stranded on lifeboats near the eye of storm. Another was later found and taken to hospital, although she was reported to be unresponsive, while the captain has not been found.
Sandy was blamed for 69 deaths in the Caribbean before it began travelling northward parallel to the eastern seaboard.