Ferocious storm 'Hurricane Sandy' hits U.S.

The biggest storm in US history closed in at speeds of 85mph and threatened to wipe out swathes of the East Coast when it hits.

Hurricane Sandy is set to affect up to 50 million people, forcing the shutdown of transport networks, schools and financial markets in New York City and beyond, sending coastal residents fleeing for higher ground, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds, heavy rain and a surging 11ft wall of water.

The hurricane has now grown to 1,000 miles wide and is increasing in speed as it hurtles towards New Jersey where it is expected to make landfall later today. New York is due to feel the effects from 2pm local time (6pm GMT). The storm will peak tonight and then subside in the early hours of the morning.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning that schools will remain closed tomorrow, a coastal flood warning will remain in place until 3pm tomorrow and a high wind warning will also remain in place until 6pm tomorrow.

He added that an evacuation order of the city’s ‘zone A’ low-lying areas remains in place, a New York City storm surge is expected at 8pm local time, there are 76 emergency shelters active and coastal areas are braced for 20ft waves.