Hurricane Joaquin Turns With Vengeance, Kills 4 In S.C. And 1 In N.C., Swallows Ship Off Bahamas, Heads For U.K.

Hurricane Joaquin churned off the southeastern coast of the United States to the Bahamian islands as a category-4 storm with gales over 140 miles per hour on Sunday, wreaking havoc in its path toward the United Kingdom.

In the hurricane’s wake were blackouts, evacuations, washed-out bridges and homes, one confirmed death in North Carolina, four in South Carolina, and a lost U.S. cargo ship off the Bahamas. Parts of New Jersey and the U.S. east coast were flooded, while the Bahamian islands from Eleuthera to Long Island and Crooked Island took the worst of the storm.

According to CTV, strong winds crashed a tree on a vehicle near Fayetteville, North Carolina, killing a passenger. In separate weather-related traffic incidents, Highway Patrol reports tallied up three fatalities in South Carolina on Friday and Saturday. A drowning in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was also deemed storm-related.

In Nassau, Bahamas, a U.S. cargo ship with 33 people on board was reported to have lost power and communications while being caught up in Hurricane Joaquin. There has been no contact with the ship since.

Heavy rainfall began across much of the U.S. East Coast as early as Thursday, and since then, the situation worsened with blackouts, evacuations, washed out bridges and homes, and avalanche warnings farther inland.

The South Carolina drowning victim was identified by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal as Sylvia Arteaga, 56, whose car was flooded by standing water on a road near Howard Street, Spartanburg. County coroner Rusty Clevenger confirmed her death, saying she drowned when her car became submerged in the deluge from the hurricane.

Rescue operations are underway for the missing vessel off the Bahamas. According to Global News, the El Faro departed from Jacksonville, Florida, on September 29, when Joaquin was still a tropical storm, with 28 U.S. crew members and five Polish sailors. The 735-foot container ship was on a regular cargo supply run to the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.

Ship operator T.O.T.E. Maritime Puerto Rico indicated that family members of the crew were told not to be discouraged by the discovery of a life ring by searchers. Explaining that the ring found at sea may help authorities narrow the search, the company issued this statement of reassurance.

“While this reflects that the ship was caught in rough seas and extreme weather, it is in no way indicative of the ship’s fate. Small items such as life rings and life jackets are lost at sea frequently, particularly in rough weather.”

An Inmarsat satellite notification at about 7:30 a.m. on Thursday alerted the U.S. Coast Guard of the ship’s distress due to Hurricane Joaquin. Two Air Force C-130 Hurricane Hunter aircrews tried but failed to link up with ship’s radio on Thursday and Friday while battling Joaquin.

Meanwhile, as “the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since Igor in 2010″ caused havoc, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told Fox that the Joaquin effect was not just any rain, but “the heaviest rain we have ever seen”. With 8 to 10 inches of rain predicted to fall over most of the South Carolina’s coast late Sunday through Monday, Charleston County has tweeted this urgent message to motorists.

“Please stay HOME.”

According to The Guardian, President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in South Carolina and has ordered federal aid to help state and local efforts. Likewise, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe have declared states of emergency, as coastal flood warnings remain in effect from Georgia north into New Jersey, with the continuing heavy rain.

Sunday Express has reported worried British forecasters issuing fresh warnings ahead of Hurricane Joaquin making landfall with the U.K. in five days. Instead of dissipating power as it crosses the cool Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane is allegedly drawing more energy from the sun and the jet stream.

If such is the case, Joaquin could give Britain a battering worse than its memorable storm of October 1987.

[Photo by Handout/Getty Images]