‘This is like a Bi­b­li­cal flood – epic in na­ture’

Mil­lions told to evac­u­ate as Hur­ri­cane Florence hits North Carolina, lead­ing to widespread dev­as­ta­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Nick Allen in Wilm­ing­ton, North Carolina

AT LEAST four peo­ple, in­clud­ing a mother and her baby, were con­firmed dead last night as Hur­ri­cane Florence brought a “bi­b­li­cal” del­uge to the US east coast.

The woman and in­fant died when a tree fell on their house in Wilm­ing­ton, North Carolina, po­lice said. The baby’s fa­ther was taken to hos­pi­tal.

Else­where in the storm-rav­aged state a man died plug­ging in a power cord and a woman died from a heart at­tack af­ter res­cuers were un­able to reach her home past downed trees.

Last night the 400-mile wide storm had knocked out power to half a mil­lion homes and busi­nesses, and left many peo­ple stranded in their flooded homes.

The eye of the hur­ri­cane made land­fall at Wrightsville Beach, just out­side Wilm­ing­ton, on Fri­day morn­ing, with winds of over 100mph, then stalled and be­gan crawl­ing in­land at just 3mph.

It was ex­pected to drop eight months’ worth of rain in just a few days on North Carolina as res­i­dents pre­pared for a del­uge some were call­ing “the great soak”.

A to­tal of 10 tril­lion gal­lons – the equiv­a­lent of 15 mil­lion Olympic-sized swim­ming pools – was ex­pected to fall on North Carolina alone. Around 18 tril­lion gal­lons was pre­dicted to fall on the whole US east coast.

Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s gover­nor, said it was a “thou­sand-year rain event” that would “con­tinue its vi­o­lent grind for days”. He added: “We’re deeply con­cerned for whole com­mu­ni­ties which could be wiped away.”

Ralph Evan­gelous, the Wilm­ing­ton po­lice chief, added: “I see a Bi­b­li­cal pro­por­tion flood event, pretty epic in na­ture.” Some 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple had been told to evac­u­ate but many stayed. Around 20,000 took refuge in shel­ters at schools, oth­ers moved into ho­tels.

In the town of Jack­sonville, North Carolina 70 peo­ple, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies with pets, were res­cued af­ter The Tri­an­gle Mo­tor Inn mo­tel be­gan crum­bling and parts of its roof came off.

At the Carolinian Inn in Wilm­ing­ton owner Lax­man Od­e­dra, 65, a Bri­tish cit­i­zen who moved from Berk­shire 23 years ago, sur­veyed the im­pact on his mo­tel. The floor-to-ceil­ing win­dow in the lobby was blown out and a 40ft pine tree top­pled with a crash dur­ing the night, trap­ping cars in the car park.

“We don’t know what the even­tual dam­age is yet – it’s still go­ing on,” he told The Daily Tele­graph.

Tim Sam­ples, 32, fled his home two blocks away, along with his wife and three daugh­ters, to shel­ter at the Carolinian Inn. “This is the worst storm I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I don’t know if my house is OK. I can’t get back there at the mo­ment. Fin­gers crossed.”

Streets in Wilm­ing­ton, which usu­ally has a pop­u­la­tion of 100,000, were de­serted. Its sub­ur­ban ar­eas be­came a maze of roads blocked by fallen trees and downed power lines.

One tree fell on Kevin Diloreto’s home. “It’s in­sane. I’ve never seen tree dev­as­ta­tion this bad,” he said.

The town of New Bern, 90 miles up the coast from Wilm­ing­ton, saw its cen­tre sub­merged as the River Neuse burst its banks. Res­i­dents res­cued 350 neigh­bours us­ing boats but many more were still stranded.

In a tweet New Bern of­fi­cials told those stranded to “move up to the sec­ond floor, or to your at­tic, but WE ARE COM­ING TO GET YOU”.

Ge­orge Zay­toun, one of those who had de­cided not to evac­u­ate New Bern, said: “It’s like a bomb has gone off. Ev­ery­thing around us is un­der­wa­ter.”

Some 9,700 mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard have been de­ployed to the area with he­li­copters and boats.

In Wilm­ing­ton some of those who did not evac­u­ate said they had not be­lieved the warn­ings. On Thurs­day night sev­eral dozen of them gath­ered in the Bar­bary Coast, the only bar to stay open, on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

“About 70 per cent of peo­ple I know evac­u­ated,” said pa­tron Tom Bruin, 32, as a tele­vi­sion broad­cast dire warn­ings.

“I’m not sure I be­lieve the hype. We’ll see.”

‘It’s a thou­sandyear rain event. We’re deeply con­cerned for whole com­mu­ni­ties which could be wiped away’

A vol­un­teer from the Civil­ian Cri­sis Re­sponse Team res­cues a child in James City, above, the house where a woman and her baby were killed by a fall­ing tree in Wilm­ing­ton, right, and flood wa­ters cut­ting off a house in Swans­boro, right

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