Florence leaves at least four dead, degraded to a tropical storm

A rescue team from the North Carolina National Guard evacuates a family as the rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence threatens their home.

A woman and her baby died when a tree fell in her house and at least two other deaths related to the storm were reported on Friday when Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, spraying the eastern states with torrential rains and causing rivers to explode. its banks. .

Hundreds of people needed to be rescued after being trapped in their homes by a swell of up to 10 feet (3 meters) in New Bern, a city of 30,000 in North Carolina at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.

At 5:00 pm. (2100 GMT), Florence was degraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), but authorities warned that the danger was far from over.

"We expect several more rainy days," said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who described the amount of hurricane rainfall as a "1,000-year event."

"In the next week our rivers will continue to increase and there will be more important floods," Cooper said.

He said there had been three deaths confirmed by the storm and several others were being investigated to determine if they were related to the storm.

A dog is rescued from flood waters in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

AAP

The mother and her baby were killed in New Hanover County when a tree fell in their home, the governor said, and one person died in Lenoir County while lighting a generator.

Local authorities reported another death, in Pender County, when fallen trees prevented emergency units from reaching a woman with a medical condition. The local press said he had suffered a heart attack.

The American press said a fifth death could have happened when a man tried to connect two extension cables in the rain.

"This storm will continue its violent routine throughout our state for days," Cooper said. "The storm is causing havoc in our state."

More than 680,000 customers in North Carolina had no electricity and 21,000 people were housed in 157 shelters throughout the state.

The White House said President Donald Trump will visit the hurricane-affected areas next week, "once it is determined that his trip will not disrupt rescue or recovery efforts."

A fallen tree crashed into the house where a woman and her baby were killed in Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence made landfall.

A fallen tree crashed into the house where a woman and her baby were killed in Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence made landfall.

AAP

WE'RE GOING TO ARRIVE & # 39;

Starting at 5:00 p.m. M. (2100 GMT), the maximum sustained winds had weakened to 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, but the

NHC warned Carolina residents to be alert for life-threatening hurricanes and "catastrophic freshwater floods."

"The flash floods will be extreme and flood waters will appear quickly and seemingly out of nowhere," the governor said.

"We are deeply concerned about entire communities that could be swept away."

Some of the worst flooding occurred in New Bern, where authorities applied the curfew.

The Trent and Neuse rivers overflowed, flooding houses, stores and streets and trapping many people in their homes.

"WE'RE GOING TO GET IN. You may need to move on to the second story, or your attic, but WE'RE GOING TO GET YOU," authorities in New Bern said on Twitter.

Governor Cooper said there have been "several hundred" rescue operations and that "there are still people to come to."

In addition to the federal and state emergency teams, rescuers were aided by volunteers from the so-called "Cajun Armada", who also went to Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out water rescues.

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

The NHC described Florence as a "slow mover" and said it had the potential to shed historic amounts of rain in North and South Carolina, up to 40 inches (one meter) in some places.

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

He said that "there are between 24 and 36 hours left for significant threats" due to heavy rains, swells and floods.

A tornado warning was issued for eastern North Carolina.

Fallen trees and power lines

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

The city woke up Friday with the sound of electric transformers exploding with strong gusts of wind that throw street signs and other debris, as well as water in all directions.

Swansboro, North Carolina

Hurricane Florence hits North Carolina with wild winds and a strong storm surge. (AAP)

In Wilmington, Mason Tarr said he spent the night at a friend's house, but he did not sleep well.

"And it's just a Category 1 hurricane," said Tarr. "I wonder how it would have been with a Category 4 or 5.

"Our house is on high ground, so we are not worried about the floods," he said. "But there are a lot of big trees, so we prefer to spend the night with friends to be safe."

"We have run out of energy, so we spent the first hours of the day playing table games with candles," he said.

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 that could be affected by the storm.

A state of emergency was declared in five coastal states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.