Washington: US President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in seven States including New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island as hurricane Irene hit North Carolina with high winds and heavy rain resulting in power cuts to thousands of homes and killing at least one person.

While Obama declared emergency in New York early in the day, the US President signed off on the emergency declaration in Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New Hampshire, after he returned yesterday night cutting short his summer vacation.

Emergency in North Carolina was declared earlier.

"The President reiterated that we know that this storm's impacts will continue to be felt throughout the weekend and that we still have work ahead of us to support potentially impacted states and communities," the White House said in a statement after Obama reviewed preparedness of his administration for hurricane Irene.

Obama's action authorises the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in these three States.

Authorities confirmed at least one death as hurricane Irene hit North Carolina. The man was killed after a tree fell on him. Lakhs of people were without power as the hurricane made a devastating blow on the infrastructure.
   
The Defence Secretary Leon Panetta issued a prepare-to-deploy order for 6,500 active duty troops from all the services to support hurricane relief efforts if ordered.

"On requests from states for the Department to provide hurricane relief assistance, it has taken the Secretary an average of 5-7 minutes to approve them," Pentagon spokesman, George Little said.

Governors of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York have already declared state of emergency as hurricane Irene nears land.

Federal storm-surge maps showed the potential for four-to 10-foot surges across a massive swath of the eastern United States, with potentially disastrous impacts in eastern North Carolina, the Tidewater area of Virginia, as well as the Potomac River that runs through Washington.

Tens and thousands of people across the east coast have been evacuated from the low-lying areas. "It looks like the track of Irene is going to have a major impact along the East Coast starting in the Carolinas all the way up through Maine," said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Residents and businesses along the East Coast should be taking steps now to prepare for severe weather, and following the instruction of their local officials, including any evacuation orders," he said.

"Those in the path of the storm should make sure that you are also taking necessary and commonsense precautions such as having an emergency plan, such as having some emergency supplies, some food, some water, a flashlight with batteries in case we lose power.

"We do anticipate a significant amount of power outage with this particular storm," said Janet Napolitano, Secretary for Homeland Security.

(Agencies)