World

Nth Carolina braces for catastrophic flood

By AAP Newswire

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.

Nearly a metre of rain had fallen in places, and forecasters are saying there will be much more by the end of the weekend.

"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, Florence was centred about 95km west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, inching west at 4km/h - not even as fast as a person walking. Its winds were down to 75km/h. With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

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.

Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7500 people living near the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 160km 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 1100 homes to clear out because the Lower Little River was rising towards record levels.

The dead included a mother and baby killed when a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, North Carolina. South Carolina recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a highway.

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.