Hurricane Florence lashes US east coast, triggers flood warnings | News | DW | 15.09.2018
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Hurricane Florence lashes US east coast, triggers flood warnings

Seven people have been killed and more than 600,000 homes and businesses across North Carolina have lost power. Authorities warn of epic flooding, as the storm's effects will be felt for the next two days.

Watch video 03:12

Hurricane Florence poised to hit southern US states: Maya Shwayder from Elizabeth City, NC

Thousands of people living near North Carolina's rising rivers were ordered to evacuate their homes on Saturday, a day after Hurricane Florence made landfall in the US east coast. Coastal streets were inundated with ocean water, causing damage to dozens of homes and businesses, officials said. 

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) described how winds of up to 90 miles (150 kilometers) per hour were pummeling the state of North Carolina. At least six people have died in the state, including a woman and her baby when a tree fell on their house. A seventh person died in neighboring South Carolina. 

Read more: Major US tourist sites prepare for Hurricane Florence

According to the NHC, Florence entered North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane and was downgraded to a tropical storm, as it made its way inland. Authorities warned that even in its weakened state, the storm still carried "very dangerous winds" and the potential for epic flooding.

"Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down ... please do not let your guard down," said Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on Thursday.

Given the storm's size and slow speed, officials warned that Florence could cause similar large-scale flood damage to that seen in the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago.

"Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see," Long added.

Read more: The world's deadliest hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones

North Carolina's Emergency Management tweeted that it is "currently engaged in large scale search and rescue missions in coastal counties. The flooding we are experiencing will only get worse."

Within hours of the storm making landfall, officials in Onslow County — which includes the city of Jacksonville — reported "major structural damage to homes, businesses and institutions."

WXII-TV reported that 150 people were waiting to be rescued from rising waters in the city of New Bern. A city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been plucked to safety.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been put under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders to avoid what emergency officials are calling a "once in a lifetime" storm.

Watch video 02:29

Virginia residents prepare for Hurricane Florence

Thousands of people have taken temporary shelter in converted schools and community centers, while those who have ignored orders have been warned that rescuers will not be able to reach them at the height of the storm.

In addition to the potentially destructive hurricane, forecasters also put parts of North Carolina on tornado watch.

mm/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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