THE mayor of New York has defended his decision to urge 370,000 residents to evacuate the city after a diminished Tropical Storm Irene brought ferocious wind and torrential rain – but not the destruction that had been predicted.
About 2.3 million Americans left their homes in the face of what was then Hurricane Irene, which was 500 miles wide and threatened to affect 65 million people – a fifth of the country’s population.
Nine people died as a result of the hurricane as it approached New York and that figure had risen to 11 last night.
Mr Bloomberg said he believed the city made the right decision in preparing for Irene after visiting one of the city’s emergency shelters.
He said: “We were unwilling to risk the life of a single New Yorker. The bottom line is that I would make the same decisions again, without hesitation. We can’t just, when a hurricane is coming, get out of the way and hope for the best.”
He praised residents, saying the public co-operated fully.
The city gave a sigh of relief last night after collectively holding its breath in the face of the rushing storm.
New York had been in an unprecedented state of lock-down and eerily quiet as it waited for Irene to hit.
For the first time in its history the entire transit system was shut down and airports were closed, with 9,000 flights cancelled. Broadway shows, baseball games and other events were postponed.
Some 370,000 residents living in “Zone A” districts, those deemed particularly vulnerable, had been urged to flee. Everyone else was ordered to stay in their homes.
However, as the day wore on, White House officials said the worst of Tropical Storm Irene was over for many on the east coast, although they urged communities still in its path to remain vigilant.
President Barack Obama and top administration officials, including vice-president Joe Biden, Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner and homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, were briefed yesterday morning in the Situation Room.
The White House said Mr Obama asked administration officials to stay in touch with governors and local leaders in areas affected by the storm.