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Hurricane Florence LIVE updates: Downgraded to tropical storm, Florence trudges inland in the Carolinas

People wait to be rescued by members of the U.S. Army during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, US. (Reuters)

The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. The significant weakening was expected over the weekend.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm. A state of emergency was declared in five coastal states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.

Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world. Super Typhoon Mangkhut was expected to hit an area in the Philippines on Saturday that would affect 5.2 million people.