A mother and her infant child were killed when a tree fell on their house in North Carolina – the first reported fatalities of Hurricane Florence.
Police in the city of Wilmington, located on the coast where the storm blew ashore on Friday morning, confirmed that the individuals were killed where a tree fell on the home in Mercer Avenue. Media said emergency crews had been working to save the pair, but their efforts were in vain; the husband and father of the victims was also hurt and transported to hospital.
As news of the deaths was confirmed, emergency crews from the fire department knelt and prayed outside the outside the house, a moment captured by NBC journalist Lester Holt. “A remarkably touching scene in Wilmington NC as firefighters huddle in prayer for 2 victims in partial house collapse,” he wrote. Some time after that, a third fatality was reported.
The city’s police force had initially confirmed it was working to free people from a house where a tree had fallen. Reports said the emergency team had with them an specialist in performing amputations, should that have been required.
Shortly afterwards, it posted another tweet that read: “WPD can confirm the first two fatalities of Hurricane #Florence in Wilmington. A mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to NHRMC with injuries.”
The city of Wilmington, which has a population of just under 120,000 is just a few miles from Wrightsville Beach, where Florence came ashore at 7.15am. At that point, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC), the storm had winds of a relatively modest 90mph and had been downgraded to a category 1 storm. Yet the centre said it still bore with it the threat of “catastrophic” freshwater flooding.
CNN said that soon after police confirmed the deaths of the mother and her child, a third fatality was reported from Pender County in North Carolina. She also died Friday morning after emergency responders were unable to get to her due to downed trees and debris in the road, Chad McEwen, the assistant county manager for Pender County, said. Mr McEwen said 911 had been called for the woman in cardiac distress in Hampstead, North Carolina.