Hurricane Florence: Animal Death Toll Reaches Millions in North Carolina

Millions of livestock animals are dead in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, with more at risk as further flooding is anticipated.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture reported the deaths by drowning of 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs, the Associated Press reported. Many died in farm buildings overcome by flooding as they waited to be taken to market.

In a statement, the North Carolina Pork Council said 2,100 farms in the state raise about 8.9 million pigs, which puts the losses in perspective. The Florence losses are almost double those of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 but around a quarter of those during 1999's Hurricane Floyd.

"Our farmers took extraordinary measures in advance of this storm, including moving thousands of animals out of harm's way as the hurricane approached," the council said. "The storm's impact was felt deeply across a very large region, and the…swine losses reported…were the result of all aspects of the storm, including wind damage and flooding. We are saddened by this outcome.

"We do not expect the losses to increase significantly, though floodwaters continue to rise in some locations and circumstances may change," the statement said.

The council said its farmers are "working tirelessly now amid persistent and severe logistical challenges to continue the delivery of feed, to ensure power is operating on farms (as many use wells for water), and to reach the barns to provide proper animal husbandry."

It added: "We believe deeply in our commitment to provide care for our animals amid these incredibly challenging circumstances."

The state's Agriculture Department and the North Carolina Poultry Federation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a number of disaster assistance programs available to farmers who suffered losses as a result of Florence.

At least 37 people are dead because of Florence. Of those, 27 were in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and two in Virginia. Hundreds of thousands of homes are still without power, and evacuation orders are in place across affected areas.

An estimate of the damage to insured property alone by data company CoreLogic puts the total cost at between $3 billion and $5 billion, the bulk of which is in North Carolina.

The National Weather Service said significant river flooding will continue through the week and there will be lingering impacts from the rainfall, despite dry weather expected Wednesday through Saturday.

"I just want to thank all of the incredible men and women who have done such a great job in helping with Florence," President Donald Trump said in a video statement posted to his Twitter account. "This is a tough hurricane, one of the wettest we've ever seen from the standpoint of water. Rarely have we had an experience like it."

North Carolina flooding
North Carolina flooding continues after Hurricane Florence and some key highways, including portions of Interstate 95 and Interstate 40 will likely remain closed another week or more, officials said this weekend. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images