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Storm Florence: North Carolina prepares for catastrophic flooding

World News | Published:

The death toll from the tropical storm has climbed to 11.

North Carolina is bracing itself for widespread, catastrophic inland flooding caused by tropical storm Florence.

The death toll from the former hurricane has climbed to 11.

With rivers rising towards record levels, thousands of people were ordered to evacuate for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.

Rescue personnel use a small boat as they go house to house checking for flood victims
Rescuers have been going from house to house checking for flood victims (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking your life,” governor Roy Cooper said.

As of 5pm local time, Florence was centred about 60 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, inching west at 2mph — not even as fast as a person walking.

Its winds were down to 45 mph. With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

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In its initial onslaught along the coast, Florence buckled buildings, deluged entire communities and knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses.

But the storm was shaping up as a two-part disaster, with the second, delayed stage triggered by rainwater working its way into rivers and streams.

The flash flooding could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges.

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Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles from the coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.

Officials in nearby Harnett County urged residents of about 1,100 homes to clear out because the Lower Little River was rising towards record levels.

Houses are surrounded by water from Florence
Houses are surrounded by water from Florence (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Three died in one inland county, Duplin, because of water on roads and flash floods, the sheriff’s office said. A husband and wife died in a house fire linked to the storm, officials said, and an 81-year-old man died after falling and hitting his head while packing to evacuate.

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