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World

AFP
September 14, 2018
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Hundreds rescued as Hurricane Florence pounds Carolinas

World

AFP
Fri, Sep, 18

WILMINGTON, United States: Emergency crews rescued hundreds of stranded people on Friday as Hurricane Florence pounded the US East Coast with driving rain, howling winds and dangerous storm surge.

"The storm is wreaking havoc on our state," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. "We´re deeply concerned for whole communities which could be wiped away."

Some of the worst flooding from the monster storm was in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, where the Neuse River overflowed its banks, flooding streets and trapping many people in their homes.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the New Bern authorities said on Twitter.

Governor Cooper said no fatalities had been reported yet but there have been "several hundred" rescue operations and "there are still some people they need to get to."

"Rescue workers are working in dangerous conditions that will only get worse today," he said.

Cooper said the Neuse River had seen storm surge as high as 10 feet (three meters) and the amount of rainfall was a "1,000-year event."

He said 20,000 people were being housed in shelters across the state.

Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm at 7:15 am (1115 GMT) in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, after stalking the Carolina coast for days.

At 11:00 am (1500 GMT), the storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour) and moving west-southwest at three mph (six kph).

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) described Florence as a "slow mover" and said it had the potential to dump historic amounts of rainfall on North and South Carolina, as much as 40 inches (one meter) in some places.

"This is not the end of it," said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

He said "24 to 36 hours remain for significant threats" from heavy rain, storm surge and flooding.

In New Bern, where a curfew was in place, city authorities said at least 150 people were awaiting rescue.

Besides federal and state emergency crews, they were being helped by volunteers from the so-called "Cajun Navy" who also turned up in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out water rescues.

In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were down and many windows had been broken. The streets were mostly deserted and some were blocked by fallen trees.

The city woke Friday to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris as well as water in all directions.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.

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