Six US states on alert as Hurricane Irene arrives

Six US states on alert as Hurricane Irene arrives

Aug 26, 2011 08:00AM GMT

Six US states on alert as Hurricane Irene arrives

Six US states have declared emergencies as they prepare for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irene which has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean.

Having battered the Bahamas the first major storm of the Atlantic hurricane season has prompted states of emergencies in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina as Irene approaches bringing with it winds of at least 115mph .

The huge storm is creating hurricane force winds extending 80 miles from its centre, and tropical storm winds reaching up to 295 miles from the eye, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.

Forecasters said Irene could strengthen slightly throughout today (Friday) before its expected arrival in North Carolina on Saturday.

The hurricane, which has forced cruise lines to amend itineraries across the Caribbean and airlines to revise schedules, is then expected to weaken as it moves up the US east coast, diminishing in strength to a still-powerful category two storm on Sunday.

Up to 25 cruise ships in the Eastern Caribbean and Bahamas have had to change schedules affecting companies including Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Holland American Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

The Miami-based Hurricane Centre’s former director Max Mayfield told the Associated Press news agency: “One of my greatest nightmares was having a major hurricane go up the whole north east coast.”

He predicted that the damage could climb into billions of dollars, saying: “This is going to have an impact on the US economy.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned holidaymakers to avoid the shore, and urged people to evacuate ahead of the storm’s anticipated arrival on Saturday night.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents of low-lying and beach-front areas to find a place to stay on higher ground ahead of Irene’s anticipated arrival on Sunday. The city is even planning to shut down the entire transportation system.

‘Toughest trading in 40 years’ leaves Co-op 12% down

By Ian Taylor  |  Aug 26, 2011 08:00AM GMT

'Toughest trading in 40 years' leaves Co-op 12% down

The Co-operative Group reported the worst retail trading conditions “in 40 years” as it recorded a 12% drop in underlying profits for the first half of this year.

Co-op group chief executive Peter Marks said: “We do not see signs of any real improvement in the economy and are planning accordingly.”

The group reported an underlying profit of £230 million for the six months. The business division that includes The Co-operative Travel contributed an underlying operating profit of £70 million.

However, the group gave no figures on the performance of its travel division which will merge with Thomas Cook and the Midlands Co-operative over the next month followingCompetition Commission clearance.

The Co-operative Travel made an operating profit of just £100,000 last year. It is part of a business division that includes the Co-operative Pharmacy, Funeralcare, Legal Services, car dealerships and clothing.

In a statement, the group said: “The UK and the world economy remain in a highly fragile state. Our customers are feeling the squeeze and, inevitably, we are seeing an impact on sales. The economic environment is particularly challenging for those businesses that rely on ever-tightening discretionary spend.”

Marks said: “We warned that the downturn was biting deeper than anyone had expected and predicted challenging trading conditions would continue into 2012. This has clearly proved to be the case. Indeed, it is the worst I have seen in 40 years of retailing.”

The deal with Thomas Cook guarantees the Co-operative Group a minimum dividend from the travel retail business of £10 million a year for the next four years, with a subsequent option for either partner to buy out the other.

Earthquake puts crack in Washington Monument

Earthquake puts crack in Washington Monument

By Gay Nagle Myers

Washington MonumentThe 5.9 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday in Virginia did not cause widespread damage or injury, but it did put a crack in the Washington Monument.

National Park officials closed the 550-foot obelisk and plaza surrounding it indefinitely after discovering a crack at the top of the monument.

The park service also temporarily closed the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, pending further inspection. Other landmarks, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, set to be officially unveiled this weekend if Hurricane Irene does not interfere, remain open.

The Smithsonian museum complex also remains closed as officials survey for damage.

Also closed to visitors is the Washington National Cathedral, which had “significant damage,” according to information on its website.

Corner spires on the central tower fell off and cracks have appeared in several of the flying buttresses. There was no damage to the cathedral’s stained-glass windows.

Visitors are advised to check websites and Facebook pages for reopening information.

All air and rail travel have resumed normal operations, following slowdowns to check for damage following Tuesday’s quake.