US & Canada

Florence death toll rises to 32 as flooding continues

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Media captionHundreds rescued in deadly Florence floods

As flooding continues to inundate North Carolina, the death toll from Florence has risen to at least 32, with 25 deaths confirmed in North Carolina.

The state's governor, Roy Cooper, said on Monday that the "epic storm" was still an immediate danger as rivers reach major flood levels.

The coastal city of Wilmington became an island amid heavy floods following the storm.

Officials have warned evacuated residents to stay away.

At a news conference on Monday, Gov Cooper said "catastrophic flooding and tornados are still claiming lives and property" across the state.

"For many parts of North Carolina the danger is still immediate," he said. "Some areas have not seen the worst flooding yet. This is a monumental disaster for our state."

An initial estimate from Moody's Analytics puts the cost of Florence between $17bn (£13bn) and $22bn, making the storm one of the 10 costliest hurricanes in US history, according to NPR.

Most of the monetary damage is due to property loss, and the company said these figures could rise as inland flooding continues.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Waffle House chain remained open in the marooned city - whether a town's Waffle House is open is one of the indicators FEMA uses to determine the scale of a disaster

In Wilmington, with its population of about 120,000, some 400 people have had to be rescued from flood waters, and most of the city remains without power.

The governor said that 23 truckloads of supplies were able to make it into Wilmington this morning, though officials are uncertain whether the single road into the city will remain functional as rivers continue to flood.

The National Weather Service has warned of at least two further days of possible flash flooding in the area before conditions are forecast to improve.

"Do not come here," New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White said. "We want you home, but you can't come yet."

A city-wide curfew has been extended after five people were arrested on suspicion of looting from a store on Saturday.

The area is usually best known as a filming location for US dramas One Tree Hill and Dawson's Creek, and as the childhood home of US basketball legend Michael Jordan.

What's the latest on the storm?

Florence has now weakened to a tropical depression with winds of 30mph (45km/h), according to the National Hurricane Centre.

Some parts of the Carolinas have seen up to 40in (100cm) of rain since Thursday.

On Monday, the National Weather Service announced that the Cape Fear River near Fayetteville, North Carolina, is expected to reach the major flood stage - levels over 60ft (18m) - by this evening.

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Media captionGusts & floods: the impact of the storm

There were several tornado warnings across North Carolina on Monday morning.

One twister touched down in Elm City, causing some damage to buildings and power lines, according to local media reports.

In Richmond, Virginia, one person died in a tornado on Monday afternoon as Florence began making its way north.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A boat made its way to a backyard in New Bern, North Carolina, courtesy of Florence

Officials in North Carolina say some 900 people have been rescued from floodwaters by the US Coast Guard and volunteers, and about 14,000 people are still in emergency shelters.

US President Donald Trump - who may visit North Carolina in the coming days - has declared a disaster in several North Carolina counties, freeing up federal funding for recovery efforts.

Gov Cooper said he has been in touch with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who visited North Carolina on Monday.

"We know that we're going to need significant federal resources, and they have promised them across the board," Gov Cooper said on Monday of Fema and DHS.

Power companies are working to restore power to the nearly half a million homes and businesses in both states that are still without electricity.

The storm has begun to move into Virginia and West Virginia, and is expected to turn toward New England on Tuesday.

What do we know of the victims?

On Monday, police in Union County, North Carolina, recovered the body of a one-year-old boy who had been swept away by floodwaters.

The boy's mother had driven around a barricade in the road and ended up stalled in rushing water. As she tried to leave the car, she lost grip of the boy and he was carried off in the floods, the News & Observer reported.

An 88-year-old man was also found dead in Union County on Monday, next to a car that had been submerged in the floods.

Among the other fatalities were two men in their 70s who died in Lenoir County - one had been connecting extension cords and another was blown by high winds when checking on his dogs.

Four road deaths in South Carolina have been blamed on the storm, and two people died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator inside their home.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world's deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we're about to get punched in the face."
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008


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