Americans were evacuating their homes on Monday as Hurricane Dorian continued to batter the Bahamas after a weekend in which its winds reached up to 220mph.
Authorities ordered evacuations from the coasts of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina after the US National Hurricane Center said water levels could rise as much as 23ft above typical levels due to storm surges.
The hurricane hit the Bahamas as a category five storm but has weakened to category four, with winds now reaching a maximum of 155mph, the National Hurricane Center said on Monday.
Dorian turned fatal at the weekend when it claimed the life of Lachino Mcintosh, seven, in Abaco, the Bahamas.
He drowned while trying to escape the bad weather with his family near their home, according to Bahamas press.
His sister also went missing in the storm, the worst the Bahamas has seen in recent history.
South Carolina governor Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire coast of the state amid Dorian’s threat.
The order, which covers about 830,000 people, went into effect at noon local time on Monday, when state troopers will begin reversing lanes so they all head inland on major coastal highways.
“We can’t make everybody happy,” Mr McMaster said. “But we believe we can keep everyone alive.”
Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state’s Atlantic coast, also starting at noon on Monday.
Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas.
On Sunday, Dorian’s maximum sustained winds reached 185mph, with gusts of up to 220mph, tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore.
The storm’s top sustained winds then decreased slightly to 170mph on as its westward movement slowed, crawling along Grand Bahama island early on Monday at 2mph in what forecasters said would be a day-long assault.
Forecasters said Dorian was most likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early on Tuesday and curve to the northeast parallel to the US Southeast seaboard.
The potent storm was expected to stay close to shore and hammer the coast with dangerous winds and heavy surf, while authorities cautioned that it could still make landfall in the US.
More than 600 Labor Day flights in the US had been cancelled as of Sunday afternoon, many of them in Florida as Dorian barrelled towards the state’s coast.
In the northern stretches of the Bahamas, hotels closed, residents boarded up homes and officials hired boats to move people to bigger islands.
US president Donald Trump asked Americans to “pray for the people in the Bahamas”.
Earlier, Dorian churned over Abaco with battering winds and surf.
There was little information from the affected islands, but officials expected many residents to be left homeless.
Most people went to shelters as the storm approached, with tourist hotels shutting down and residents boarding up their home.