5 dead as storm Florence batters the southeastern coast of the US

5 dead as storm Florence batters the southeastern coast of the US

Officials said five people had died on Friday as Hurricane Florence continued to hit the North and South Carolina with gusting winds and extremely heavy rain.

Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday evening, but still had sustained winds of 70-mph. Officials warned that up to 50 inches of rain could cause catastrophic flooding into next week.

The centre of the storm crossed into South Carolina on Friday, heading for the coastal city of Myrtle Beach after leaving nearly 800,000 homes and businesses without power in North Carolina.

The first confirmed deaths came on Friday morning when a mother and her child were killed in Wilmington. The child’s father was also injured and was taken to a hospital.

Officials said a woman died in Hampstead, about 10 miles north-east of Wilmington and two miles from the coast.

Collins said the woman called 911 on Friday morning with a medical emergency, but crews were unable to reach her because of downed trees in the road.

A 78-year-old man was electrocuted, reportedly attempting to connect extension cords in the rain. A 77-year-old man was found outside his home after checking on his hunting dogs, officials said.

Florence made landfall as a category 1 hurricane just outside Wilmington, where trees were bent almost to the ground by winds that gusted at 105-mph.

Forecasters have warned of historic rainfall along the Carolina coast as the storm crawls south-west towards South Carolina at just 3-mph.

Severe freshwater flooding is expected in the following days as the region braces for an extended period of extreme weather.

Donald Trump praised the “incredible job” being done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) workers and first-responders on the ground in an early morning tweet.

The president was still facing criticism over his attempt to downplay the almost 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, a toll he suggested had been inflated by his political opponents.

The next major population centre in Florence’s path, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, was lashed with rain and gusts throughout the morning.

The storm was expected to reach the city, which has a population of 30,000, by the evening. Evacuation orders were in place throughout the Carolina coastline.

About 2,200 patients in seven South Carolina hospitals had already been evacuated.

The storm will be a major test for Fema, a year after the agency was criticised for its response to Maria in Puerto Rico.

About 9,700 national guard troops and civilians were stationed throughout the area with high-water vehicles, helicopters, and boats for use in rescue operations in the aftermath.

The National Hurricane Center projected that Florence will eventually turn towards the north-east over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.

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