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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

'Life-threatening' Hurricane Florence closes in on US east coast

President Trump and local officials are urging residents in the path of the storm to evacuate

This satellite image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence off the eastern coast of the United States on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. NOAA via AP
This satellite image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence off the eastern coast of the United States on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. NOAA via AP

"Life-threatening" Hurricane Florence edged closer to the east coast of the United States Thursday, with tropical-force winds and rain already lashing barrier islands just off the North Carolina mainland.

The huge storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane overnight, but forecasters warned that it still packed a dangerous punch – 110 mile-an-hour (175 kph) winds and torrential rains.

Georgia joined four other coastal states issuing an emergency declaration as forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of rain on the southern state.

As Florence closed in, President Donald Trump and state and local officials urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate.

"We are completely ready for hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful. Be careful!" Trump tweeted.

The UAE Embassy in the United States sent out a safety warning to UAE citizens in the country as the deadly threat of a 'monster' hurricane looms large.

The embassy sent a number of tweets yesterday urging UAE citizens on the east coast of the US to stay alert about the dangers of the fast approaching Hurricane Florence.

The embassy tweeted last night: “Attention UAE citizens in Virginia, North and South Carolina, as #HurricaneFlorence (a category 4 hurricane) approaches, stay tuned to your local news for safety instructions and evacuation procedures.”

Appeals to stay safe came from as far away as space. German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted pictures of the monster storm taken from the International Space Station along with the warning: "Watch out, America!"

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Read more: 'Monster' storm nears Carolina coast

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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded Florence to a Category 2 storm from Category 3 on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale, the second such drop in the space of hours.

But the Miami-based NHC stressed it remained "a life-threatening situation" due to the risks of storm surge around coastal areas.

Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached.

"Get out of its way, don't play games with it, it's a big one, maybe as big as they've seen," Trump on Wednesday. "We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able.

"Protection of life is the absolute highest priority," he added.

Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches (one meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina Thursday night or Friday.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding," the NHC said.

Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet were also forecast in some areas along with the possibility of tornadoes in North Carolina.

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