Monster storm mauls US south-east

Storm Michael's trail of devastation

Storm Michael’s trail of devastation

One of the strongest storms in recorded history to hit the US has battered north-west Florida, flooding homes, washing out beaches and snapping trees.

Rescue services are beginning to assess the full impact of Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a category four storm with 155mph (250km/h) winds.

Two people, including a child, were killed by falling debris.

Having weakened to a tropical storm, Michael is on its way to the Carolinas.

Storm-surge warnings are still in place, the US National Hurricane Center says, and residents across the southern US have been warned of the continuing danger from downed powerlines, flash floods and landslides.

There are fears for people who ignored evacuation warnings in some of the areas now flooded.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without electricity in Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at around 14:00 (18:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

It ranks among the most powerful hurricanes to hit the US in terms of wind speed and barometric pressure, comparable to Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Michael was so strong as it swept into Florida that it remained a hurricane for hours as it moved further inland, before being downgraded to a tropical storm.

Its rapid intensification caught many by surprise, although the storm later weakened.

Unusually warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico turbo-charged the storm from a tropical depression on Sunday.

On Tuesday it was still a category two hurricane but by Wednesday morning it had reached borderline category five, the highest level.

Florida officials say a man was killed when he was crushed in an incident involving a tree in Gadsden County.

In Seminole County, Georgia, a metal car-shelter lifted by a gust of wind hit a mobile home, killing a girl of 11.

Travis Brooks, director of Seminole County’s emergency management agency, told ABC News there was “complete and total devastation”.

Michael earlier reportedly killed at least 13 people as it passed through Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.

The storm has knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses.

More than 370,000 people in Florida were ordered to evacuate but officials believe many ignored the warning.

The coastal city of Apalachicola reported a storm surge of nearly 8ft (2.5m). -BBC

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