31 Dead as Hurricane Florence Smashes into US East Coast

The death toll attributed to Florence stands at 31, including 24 of those in North Carolina, reported AP quoting officials.

North Carolina officials say large-scale search-and-rescue operations are underway in coastal areas as floodwaters from Florence spread across the state and road conditions worsen.

Michael Sprayberry, director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management said at a news conference that more than 1,000 responders were working with more than 200 boats to rescue people on Sunday, 16 September, afternoon.

Officials are also delivering food, water and rescue vehicles to hard-hit areas.

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The state’s transportation secretary says 171 primary roads are closed, 100 more than a day earlier. Officials warned that problems would spread westward on Sunday along with the remnants of the storm.

Governor Roy Cooper says the storm has “never been more dangerous” than it is now for areas extending from Fayetteville and Lumberton, across the Sandhills, to the central part of the state and into the mountains.

Around 15,000 North Carolinians are in shelters and about 700,000 were without power.

Hurricane Florence smashed into the US East Coast with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters.

Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous.

The port city of Wilmington woke on Friday, 14 September, to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris as well as water in all directions, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

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The storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 am (local time), the National Hurricane Center said.

Ken Graham, the NHC’s director, warned the slow pace of the storm exacerbated its danger even to areas outside its immediate path. “The longer you have this hurricane wind flow, the longer you push that water well inland,” he said.

Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes. Video footage showed parking lots in the riverfront town of New Bern turn into shallow lakes of dirty gray water as heavy rain fell.

New Bern Police Lieutenant David Daniels said early Friday morning that between 150 and 200 people had been rescued so far, with others still waiting for help.

It added the greatest threats to life came from storm-surges while “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding” was expected, with some areas receiving up to 40 inches of rainfall.

(This copy has been edited for length. With inputs from PTI and AP)

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