Florence weakens to tropical storm, leaves at least five dead

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

Hurricane Florence has moved to the coast of Carolina and has moved inland, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, spewing rain showers and killing five people before degrading to a tropical storm capable of wreaking havoc.

A mother and her baby died when a tree fell at her home in Wilmington, North Carolina. The injured father of the child was taken to a hospital. Another woman died of a heart attack; the paramedics who were trying to reach it were blocked by debris.

A 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords while another man died when he was knocked down by strong winds while checking his hunting dogs.

Florence had been a category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 195km / h winds until Thursday, but it fell to a Category 1 hurricane before it hit land.

The National Hurricane Center reduced it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned that life-threatening storms – in which water is pushed by a storm over lands that would normally be dry – still expected catastrophic freshwater floods.

The center of the eye of the hurricane reached the coast near Wilmington, with sustained winds of 150 km / h according to the National Hurricane Center (CNH).

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

AAP

By Friday night, the center of the storm had moved east of South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

It was predicted that parts of North Carolina and the South would reach up to one meter of rain.

More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds collapsed on part of the roof. Many of the evacuees took their pets.

Atlantic Beach, located in the barrier islands Outer Banks of the state, had received 76 cm of rain, according to the United States Geological Survey.

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

The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them that the federal government was ready to help. Trump planned a visit to the region next week.

About 900,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in the Carolinas early Friday, company officials said. Utilities said millions were expected to lose energy and restoration could take weeks.

The storm is expected to move through parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, and then head north over the Western Carolinas and the Appalachian Mountains early next year. week, said the NHC. A significant weakening was expected over the weekend.

Around 10 million people could be affected by the storm.

Swansboro, North Carolina

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