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Monday, 17 September 2018

At least five people are arrested and dozens more are caught on video looting a Family Dollar store in flood-hit Wilmington, as the city on North Carolina's coast becomes a virtual island

  • Police issued a warning about the activity on Saturday afternoon
  • The store's management reported the looting but asked police to stand down
  • Footage from a local news station shows dozens of people carrying whatever they could get their hands on out of the store
  • Police say multiple people could be identified in the video
  • They also asked the community to help in identifying the looters
Looters have broken into a Family Dollar store in Wilmington as the city on North Carolina's coast has become cut off by floodwaters following Hurricane Florence.
Police have arrested at least five people in connection with looting at the store on Greenfield Street on Saturday.
They first issued a warning about the activity that afternoon after the store's management reported it, but asked police to stand down.  
Footage from local news station WECT shows dozens of people carrying any items they could get their hands on out of the store and back to a public housing community called Houston Moore.  
While there were no members of law enforcement on the scene due to management's request, police enacted a curfew for the area from 5pm Saturday to 6am Sunday. 
They also said many of the alleged looters could be identified in WECT's video. They encouraged locals to report anyone they recognized in the footage. 
Police have arrested at least five people in connection with looting at a Family Dollar in Wilmington. Dozens of alleged looters were caught on camera by local TV station WECT
Items were torn off the shelves and scattered on the floor of the store on Greenfield Street
Items were torn off the shelves and scattered on the floor of the store on Greenfield Street
WECT reporter Chelsea Donovan, who went to the scene with another journalist  to film the looting, said: 'When we came over the hill on Greenfield Street, you could just see people everywhere.'
In her news coverage Donovan gestures into the store's front entrance as she says: 'You can see here inside just a complete mess, people taking duffel bags and trash bags, now noticing we're here [and] running away from the camera.' A police vehicle with its siren blaring then pulls up as Donovan runs to the back entrance where other looters were attempting to make their escape.
'Hey guys, you know you're looting, right? You know you're stealing?' she says confronting the people coming out of the back.
One man with a plastic storage bin full of items appears to shrug at Donovan's confrontation. 
WECT reporter Chelsea Donovan is pictured trying to talk to people who were exiting the store through the back entrance with their arms full of various items
WECT reporter Chelsea Donovan is pictured trying to talk to people who were exiting the store through the back entrance with their arms full of various items
Donovan and her colleague tried to confront several of the alleged looters
A woman leaves the Family Dollar through the back entrance with an armful of grocery items
Donovan and her colleague tried to confront several of the alleged looters before heading back to their vehicle because they felt the scene had gotten out of hand
Both journalists retreated to their vehicle soon after as they felt the situation had gotten out of hand.
'I was concerned the whole time. I won't lie, but I was there to get the story,' Donovan said.  
It is unclear why Family Dollar management asked police not to intervene at the store, but the Wilmington Police Department has indicated offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 
'We're going to do everything we can to protect your property. This is not a response to the video. This has been our message [since] before the storm arrived,' the department said.
A man with a trash bag filled with stolen items pulled his shirt over his face to avoid the camera
A man with a trash bag filled with stolen items pulled his shirt over his face to avoid the camera
The Family Dollar, pictured Sunday, was boarded up after being hit by looters the previous day 
The Family Dollar, pictured Sunday, was boarded up after being hit by looters the previous day 
On Sunday officials announced that Wilmington had officially become inaccessible by road from the rest of the state due to rising floodwaters surrounding the coastal city. It's now almost an island.
'Our roads are flooded,' county Board of Commissioners chairman Woody White said at a news conference. 'There is no access to Wilmington.' 
Restoring ground access to the area is now a top priority, but for the time being officials are making plans for how to reach the city by air.  
Large portions of Wilmington lost electricity over the weekend as thousands of residents were trapped in their homes due to downed trees and power lines in the wake of hurricane-turned-tropical-depression Florence, which has made its way inland. 
Rescue efforts in New Hanover County continued overnight Saturday and into Sunday as hundreds of residents were taken to shelters.
Local media reports that 'countless' homes have been damaged, but many homeowners who evacuated Wilmington ahead of the storm are now unable to get back to see how bad the situation actually is. A mother and child were killed in the home pictured above after a tree toppled over
A mother and child were killed in the home pictured above after a tree toppled over
A sinkhole opened up on a street in Wilmington on Sunday morning as most roads are impassable thanks to downed trees and power lines in the wake of the storm
A sinkhole opened up on a street in Wilmington on Sunday morning as most roads are impassable thanks to downed trees and power lines in the wake of the storm
Wilmington is already largely inaccessible by road from the rest of the state, officials say
Wilmington is already largely inaccessible by road from the rest of the state, officials say
While the city has been cut off from the outside, streets in Wilmington were busy with motorists on Sunday afternoon.
Victor Merlos was overjoyed to find a store open for business since he had about 20 relatives staying at his apartment, which still has power. He spent more than $500 on cereal, eggs, soft drinks and other necessities, plus beer.
'I have everything I need for my whole family,' Merlos said.
Police guarded the door of another store and only 10 people were allowed inside at a time. Dallas Perdue told The Associated Press he waited about two hours to get into the store to buy a few groceries.
Nearby, a Waffle House restaurant limited breakfast customers to one biscuit and one drink, all take-out, with the price of $2 per item. The line for gasoline at a Costco store stretched about a half-mile down a road.
Wilmington police stand guard as a Lowe's Foods employee blocks the door of the store, which was only allowing 10 people inside at one time on Sunday
Wilmington police stand guard as a Lowe's Foods employee blocks the door of the store, which was only allowing 10 people inside at one time on Sunday
Luke Churchill, left, stands with his wife, Mary and their children, Katie, 13, Liam, 9, and Raighan, 3, as they wait in the rain outside an open Waffle House restaurant Sunday
Luke Churchill, left, stands with his wife, Mary and their children, Katie, 13, Liam, 9, and Raighan, 3, as they wait in the rain outside an open Waffle House restaurant Sunday
Duke Energy employees work on removing trees and restoring power to a closed road Sunday
Duke Energy employees work on removing trees and restoring power to a closed road Sunday
The water utility, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, had said Sunday that it had only a 48-hour supply of fuel to provide water. However, it said later in a news release that a source of fuel had been found and there was no immediate threat to service.
While Wilmington has survived its share of hurricanes, including Hurricane Fran in September 1996, the city of 120,000 has not suffered the amount of rain that fell from Florence, which has since weakened to a tropical depression.
Typically, it's a tourist city and home to EUE Screen Gems, a movie studio that helped give the city the nickname of 'Hollywood of the East,' although production has dropped since lawmakers ended film incentives. Television shows such as 'Dawson's Creek' and 'One Tree Hill' were filmed there, as well movies that include 'The Hunger Games' and 'Iron Man 3.'
It's the hometown of basketball great and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan and is known for its historic homes and its annual Azalea Festival.
But as the rain continued to fall, its officials were asking North Carolina Gov Roy Cooper for additional law enforcement, including the National Guard, White said. Some 465 people were rescued from cars and homes starting Saturday night and continuing until 9.30am Sunday he said.
Patients on oxygen and dialysis were being moved from New Hanover County Medical Center to Hoggard High School, a new shelter scheduled to open to the public at 5pm Sunday. It has room for 1,387 people.
A couple walks hand-in-hand down a Wilmington street covered in storm debris on Sunday
A couple walks hand-in-hand down a Wilmington street covered in storm debris on Sunday
The situation is becoming more grim as the waters around Wilmington continue to rise
The situation is becoming more grim as the waters around Wilmington continue to rise
An abandoned car's hazard lights continue to flash as it sits submerged in a rising flood waters in Wilmington after Hurricane Florence struck the city on North Carolina's southern coast
An abandoned car's hazard lights continue to flash as it sits submerged in a rising flood waters in Wilmington after Hurricane Florence struck the city on North Carolina's southern coast

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