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Thursday, August 27, 1998 Published at 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK

World: Americas

Bonnie batters Carolinas

A satellite image, taken as Bonnie moves up the east coast

The BBC's Clive Myrie: "Winds of over 100mph and 12ft tidal surges expected"
Torrential rain and violent winds are battering large tracts of the United States east coast as Hurricane Bonnie continues its relentless path.

North and South Carolina have felt the full impact of the 200km/h winds.

Roofs have been ripped from buildings and power has been cut to thousands of homes.

Forecasters are warning of extreme rainfall until Bonnie swings back out to sea.

[ image: Thousands moved out of the region]
Thousands moved out of the region
And they are tracking a second hurricane, in Bonnie's wake, although it is not clear whether it will threaten the US mainland.

An emergency services spokesman reported "terrific damage" after the 600km wide hurricane hit land near the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

Winds eased slightly as Bonnie passed over land.

But its slow speed - in the six hours after hitting land Bonnie travelled just 20 miles - caused widespread flooding from unremitting torrential rain.

There are fears that Bonnie's slow progress could produce a 12ft-high tidal surge.

Hurricane Bonnie is heading north and is eventually expected to head back out to sea near Duck, North Carolina.

State of emergency

[ image: A hotel roof is torn apart by the hurricane]
A hotel roof is torn apart by the hurricane
More than half a million people have been affected in North Carolina where a state of emergency has been declared.

Around 400 miles of coastline are being buffeted by winds of hurricane force and hundreds of people have left their homes for emergency shelters.

The coastal city of Wilmington in North Carolina has been worst hit.

Hurricane Bonnie's relentless pummelling snapped trees, smashed car windows, cut power supplies and swamped roads.

The unrelenting sound of Bonnie
It also ripped the roof of a local hospital. No-one was injured but staff had to transfer more than 30 patients, five of whom were in a critical condition.

The authorities in Wilmington have imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, forbidding access to the city's downtown area.

Most of Wilmington's 60,000 people have taken refuge in shelters.

The BBC's Clive Myrie reports from Wilmington where the full force of the storm is being felt
However, more than 40 people on the coast who failed to heed the early evacuation orders broke into a lighthouse by Cape Fear to escape a threatened tidal surge.

While holidaymakers and many local residents left in droves, some die-hards elected to ride out the storm as North Carolina law forbids forced removal of people from their homes.

And among the mayhem some people are throwing impromptu hurricane parties.

[ image: Swimmers brave the huge waves generated by the wind]
Swimmers brave the huge waves generated by the wind
One man has even claimed to have fulfilled a drunken dare by swimming across the swollen river in Wilmington despite the waves and dangerous currents.

Scores of schools and other public buildings have been transformed into emergency shelters and the National Guard has been mobilised.

The Carolinas were badly hit by hurricanes two years ago and the people here know what to expect - possible death, injury, widespread destruction of property and perhaps weeks without power, water or telephones.

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