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Dark clouds loom over the skyline of the Queens in New York, the United States/XINHUA

Kenya

Hurricane Sandy grounds 12,000 US flights

Dark clouds loom over the skyline of the Queens in New York, the United States/XINHUA

NEW YORK, Oct 29 – Nearly 12,000 flights have been grounded as Hurricane Sandy thwarted travel up and down the US East Coast and airlines warned it could be days before normal schedules resume.

That number is expected to grow as the slow-moving “Frankenstorm” churns its way up the coast whipping up strong winds, heavy rains and thick snow once it encounters a cold front coming down from Canada.

Pablo Gomez decided to drive the 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from New York to Chicago after his 6am Monday flight was cancelled.

“The drive is exhausting, but they said I might not get back until Thursday,” Gomez, 41, told AFP.

Gomez left Sunday evening to avoid highway closures and the oncoming storm but didn’t expect to be home until late Monday afternoon.

“The roads aren’t too bad, just a lot of rain,” the university professor said. “I wouldn’t have known anything was going on if it weren’t for all the electricity trucks – the big ones – driving the other way.”

Three smaller coastal airports shut down completely Monday and many others – including as far inland as Philadelphia – may as well have, as nearly every flight was cancelled.

Some 1,302 flights were cancelled on Sunday as airlines prepared for the storm, according to the online aviation tracking service flightaware.com.

Another 7,016 were cancelled Monday, including 1,220 in Philadelphia and around 1,000 at each of New York’s three airports.

A further 3,386 flights have already been cancelled for Tuesday and 147 on Wednesday.

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“Most airlines have not begun publishing cancellations for tomorrow yet, but forecasters are expecting winds to be 45 to 60 knots Tuesday from (Washington) DC to New York, which alone will contribute to a large number of cancellations,” Daniel Baker, chief executive of flightaware.com, said in a morning update.

Safety fears over the monster storm also caused disruption as far afield as Hong Kong and France.

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, Eurocontrol, said 300 of the usual 500-odd flights between Europe and the US had been cancelled, with more expected later Monday.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific announced it was scrapping a total of eight direct flights between the southern Chinese city and New York on Monday and Tuesday.

Flights from India and Japan were also affected.

Subway services, buses and commuter trains were also shut down in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

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