Hurricane rips apart Bahamas and heads to US

Click to follow
HURRICANE FLOYD, one of the strongest, largest storms seen in the Atlantic, was due to hit land early this morning near Wilmington, North Carolina, after sparing Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Floyd has prompted one of the biggest evacuations in US history, with 3 million people from Miami to Virginia retreating inland, and huge jams on main roads.

Last night parts of the Virginia coast were under evacuation orders, the Navy had sent ships out to sea from the Norfolk base, and warplanes were flown inland. Many airports were closed. With Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey all on storm alerts, Washington DC and New York were braced for storm-force winds and heavy rain.

Washington schools are to close today, and the Governor of New York, George Pataki, put the National Guard on 24-hour alert and ordered 24- hour staffing of emergency operations centres.

The force of the hurricane, which was 150mph at its height, was down to 115mph by last night but that was still sufficient to cause serious damage. Flooding was a particular danger, with tidal surges of up to 6 metres forecast. "It's a storm as big as Texas," said an official.

President Bill Clinton, returning from a curtailed visit to New Zealand, added the Carolinas to the states where he has declared an anticipatory emergency.

As the storm rushed northwards yesterday evening evacuation orders on southern Florida were being lifted and mopping-up began.

Insurers hope for hurricane boon, page 21

Waiting for the Big One, Review, page 1