At least five people, including an infant, have been killed in the US state of North Carolina as hurricane Florence made landfall, authorities said.
Hundreds of people needed to be rescued after becoming trapped in their homes by a storm surge of up to three meters in New Bern, a town of 30,000 in North Carolina at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.
After coming ashore in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, Florence downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon and trudged into South Carolina later in the night, reports CNN.
According to the North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper there had been three confirmed deaths from the storm and others are currently being investigated to determine if they were storm-related. He added that the danger is far from over as he described the hurricane as a 1000-year event.
“This storm is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days. The storm is wreaking havoc on our state,” Cooper said.
More than 680,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.
The White House said President Donald Trump is expected to visit hurricane-hit areas next week once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts.
The police force of Wilmington, the largest population centre in the impact zone, said via Twitter that a woman and her baby died after a tree fell on their home, while the father was taken to a nearby hospital.
Another person died in nearby Hampstead, North Carolina.
Tom Collins, director of Pender County’s Emergency Management, said that a woman who suffered a heart attack died because an ambulance was unable to reach her in time due to fallen trees blocking the roads.
Some areas have already received 15 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Centre, which warned that the storm could bring up to 40 inches of rain to parts of North and South Carolina, producing “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding”,
Authorities were most concerned about inland flooding and storm-surge flooding from Florence.
A storm surge of about 10 ft above normal levels was reported by the National Weather Service’s office in Morehead City, North Carolina.
Duke Energy, a utility company that serves the Carolinas, estimated that up to 3 million customers could lose electricity as a result of the hurricane.
(With agency inputs)