Hurricane Dorian pounds Carolinas after Bahamas havoc

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(United States) – Hurricane Dorian pounded the Carolinas with strong winds and driving rain after cutting a swath through the northern Bahamas, where it left at least 20 people dead and thousands homeless.

Residents of South and North Carolina were bracing for the Category 2 storm as rescue efforts ramped up for Dorian victims on the hardest-hit Bahamas islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.

US weather forecasters warned that some areas of the Carolina coast could see dangerous storm surge of up to seven feet (2.1 meters) and between six and 12 inches of rain.

The slow-moving monster storm also spawned several tornadoes but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

In the historic downtown area of Charleston, several trees and traffic lights were downed by the strong winds along with power lines. Streets were mostly deserted and many stores were boarded up.

Many residents of coastal Carolina heeded evacuation orders while others battened down their homes with plywood and prepared to ride out the tempest.

At 2:00 pm (1800 GMT), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian was a Category 2 storm packing winds of 110 miles per hour (175 kilometers per hour).

It was located about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and moving up the coast in a north-northeasterly direction at eight mph (13 kph).

Dorian was a Category 5 hurricane — the highest on the five-level wind scale — when it slammed into the northern Bahamas on Sunday, leaving a trail of unimaginable destruction.

An AFP team in the town of Marsh Harbour on Abaco on Thursday saw scenes of catastrophic damage with homes reduced to matchsticks, overturned cars, fields of jumbled debris, widespread flooding and beached boats.

Teams of men in masks and white protective suits were seen loading corpses encased in green body bags onto a flatbed truck.

Storm-dazed residents were out on the streets dragging suitcases containing their most precious possessions.