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via BBC News

The most ferocious storm to hit the US East Coast for years, Hurricane Irene, is bearing down on New York City, threatening major flooding.

Torrential rain is pounding the city, and there are fears a predicted surge of up to 8ft of water along the shoreline could breach flood defences.

The hurricane is packing winds up to 75mph and has been blamed for at least eight deaths in the US.

Irene has barrelled up the coast since making landfall on Saturday.

New York City’s public transport system has been closed and the mayor said it was now too late for people to leave.

Irene came ashore for a second time, on Sunday, roaring across New Jersey.

The storm has weakened from a category-three hurricane when it swept through the Caribbean last week to category one but it is still expected to be destructive.

About three million people were left without power as the 500-mile-wide  storm blew in.

The same number have moved out of the danger zone, most of them from New Jersey.

At 05:40 (09:40 GMT) the hurricane came ashore at New Jersey, about 100 miles south of New York City, the National Hurricane Center reported.

Some 370,000 people living in low-lying areas of New York City had been told to leave, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned those who remained behind to stay put.

The fear is of a storm surge affecting New York’s Hudson River, which could potentially inundate the flood defences of Lower Manhattan and cause flooding in the financial district there.

On Wall Street, sandbags have been placed around subway grates. Construction work has halted across the city

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