A woman and her baby were killed when a tree fell on their house and several more storm-related deaths were reported Friday as Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas, dousing the eastern US states with torrential rain and causing rivers to burst their banks.
Four deaths were confirmed by officials as US media reported another.
Hundreds of people needed to be rescued after becoming trapped in their homes by a storm surge of up to 10 feet (three meters) in New Bern, a town of 30,000 in North Carolina at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.
As of 8:00 pm (0000 GMT), Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center, NHC, but authorities warned the danger was far from over, predicting “life-threatening storm surges and strong winds” would persist through the night.
“We are expecting several more days of rain,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said, describing the amount of rainfall from the hurricane as a “1,000-year event.”
“Into next week our rivers are going to continue to rise and there will be more significant flooding,” Cooper said.
There had been three confirmed deaths from the storm and several others were being investigated to determine if they were storm-related, he said.
Local authorities reported a death in Pender County when downed trees prevented emergency units from reaching a woman with a medical condition. Local media said she had suffered a heart attack.
US media later said a second man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.
More than 760,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.
The White House said President Donald Trump was to visit hurricane-hit areas next week “once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts.”