At least five people have died as hurricane Florence mauls the US East Coast, knocking out power to 600,000 homes and causing buildings to crumble.

A mother and child were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina. The father was transported to hospital with injuries.

Dozens of people were rescued from a collapsing hotel as a huge storm surge toppled trees and swamped streets.Three deaths have been officially confirmed. Officials had earlier linked four deaths to the storm.

North Carolina governor said several more deaths are under investigation. Medical examiners at the local and state level will determine whether deaths are storm-related.

Evacuation warnings are in place for 1.7 million people.According to the national weather service, Florence is packing sustained winds of 110 kilometers per hour.