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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK

World: Americas

US giants bow before Floyd

The Magic Kingdom closed down for the first time in 28 years

Disney World - one of the largest attractions in the US - has closed down for the first time in its 28-year history as Hurricane Floyd approaches Florida.

Disney's caution is being echoed by many of the state's largest empoyers as they bow before the hurricane's awsome power, among the biggest to hit the US this century.

Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre evacuated its 12,500 workers leaving only a skeleton crew of 125.

[ image: Nasa had to leave its rockets behind]
Nasa had to leave its rockets behind
The four US space shuttles, valued at $2bn each, have been housed in hangers and structures built to withstand winds of 170 to 200 kmh (105 to 125 mph).

"We are going to hope for the best and wait to see what happens," said Nasa spokesman George Diller before evacuating the complex.

At neighbouring Cape Canaveral Air Station, four unmanned rockets worth $628m were left standing on the launch pads with no time to remove them before ground crews were ordered to evacuate.

The last time that Kennedy Space Center had to go through such drastic precautions was for Hurricane Erin in 1995.

In 1996, Hurricanes Bertha and Fran forced Nasa to move Atlantis from the launch pad into the hangar, but no evacuation was ordered.

More attractions close

Disney was not alone in deciding to call it a day.

Universal Escape Florida, another multiple-attraction site owned by Seagram and Britain's Rank Group, said they were closing their parks for the first time in their histories and would keep them shut on Wednesday.

[ image: Nasa employees joined the cars heading out of the state]
Nasa employees joined the cars heading out of the state
Officials at both complexes said the parks would re-open on Thursday at the earliest.

"We will remain closed on Wednesday," said Universal spokesman Tom Schroder. "We will reopen them on Thursday, or as conditions allow."

Only two dozen or so employees, recruited from a work force of some 12,000 at Universal, will remain and ride out the storm.

SeaWorld Orlando was also closed all day on Tuesday because of the hurricane threat.

The closures will affect at least a quarter of million visitors and workers in central Florida.

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