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‘Matthew’ loses steam but remains deadly

CHARLESTON, South Carolina/SAVANNAH, Georgia – Hurricane “Matthew” slammed into South Carolina on Saturday, packing a diminished yet still potent punch after killing almost 900 people in Haiti and causing major flooding and widespread power outages as it skirted Florida and Georgia.

Now weakened, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007 unleashed torrential rains and damaging winds in Florida before churning slowly north to soak coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Wind speeds at midday had subsided by nearly half from their peak about a week ago to 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour), reducing the storm to a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of one to five.

Matthew, which topped out as a ferocious Category 5 storm days before, made US landfall near McClellanville, South Carolina, a village 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Charleston that was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in 1989.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew passed over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday afternoon, and warned of potentially life-threatening flooding in Georgia and North Carolina even as the storm slowed as it plowed inland.

As of 11 p.m. EST (11 a.m. Manila), the storm was about 35 miles (55 kms) south of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, the center said in an advisory.

The center of the storm will move near or south of the North Carolina coast early on Sunday and east of the state later in the day as it weakens.

The storm was blamed for at least 11 deaths in the United States – five in Florida, three in North Carolina, and three in Georgia, including two people killed by falling trees in Bulloch County, the county coroner said.

Power was reported knocked out to more than two million households and businesses in the US Southeast, the bulk of those in Florida and South Carolina. (Reuters)