Carolina residents flee hurricane


THOUSANDS of people living along the coast of South Carolina fled inland to avoid the devastation threatened by Hurricane Fran as it roared in from the Atlantic Ocean.

The hurricane had winds of up to 115 m.p.h. but experts were predicting that it could strengthen as it moved over warmer Gulf Stream waters. Virginia, Maryland and Delaware are next in the expected track of the hurricane although the winds tend to abate once they reach land.

The Governor of South Carolina, Mr David Beasley, ordered 500,000 people to evacuate the coastal areas with memories of the destruction caused to the area by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 still vivid. By the time it had passed, it had left 85 people dead in the Carolinas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The damage was over $10 billion.

In the city of Charleston, Hugo destroyed 50 houses and severely damaged about 200, causing more than $2 billion worth of damage.

For Fran, Georgia and North Carolina have recommended voluntary evacuations of coastal areas. But residents on Ocracoke Island, which is accessible only by ferry, were ordered to leave.

The Red Cross opened more than 80 shelters in South Carolina. Federal and state emergency services were also on full alert.

In Charleston, shoppers stocked up with water, batteries and canned food. Windows were being boarded up with plywood.

In spite of the warnings, some residents in threatened areas were reluctant to leave their houses. The Georgetown County Sheriff, Maj Mike Schwartz, said that if someone refused to leave, we ask for next of kin".

As a precaution the space shuttle Atlantis was rolled back from its launch pad to its hangar at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was to have been launched on September 14th to pick up the US astronaut Shannon Lucid who has been on the Russian space station, Mir since March.

Hotels over a hundred miles inland were fully booked to cope with the evacuation.