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article imageFleeing a fragile home as Florence bears down

By AFP     Sep 13, 2018 in World

With Hurricane Florence poised to slam into the US east coast, vulnerable residents of a mobile-home park near the picturesque city of Wilmington were hurriedly packing their belongings, not knowing if they'd have a roof over their heads upon their return.

Nestled between the Cape Fear river and the Atlantic Ocean, the Royal Palms Mobile Home Park could pass for a summer camp ground, at first glance.

In reality, it houses low-income families who cannot afford to live elsewhere, in precarious wooden structures only a few hundred square feet in size.

"Affordable living near the beach!" declares its budget website.

As winds began picking up around noon on Wednesday announcing Florence's imminent arrival, volunteers from a local Hispanic church were knocking on every door urging residents to seek refuge elsewhere.

Resident Oscar Perez said he made up his mind up a while ago -- to get out.

"These mobile homes are very fragile, and with a category 4 hurricane on the way, we have no choice but to leave," said the landscaper of Mexican origin who has lived in the US for more than a decade. The storm has since been downgraded to category 2.

"We are going to bring something to eat to survive for a few days with the kids. We do not know what to expect," said Perez.

"The main thing is to stay alive. Material things are secondary," he said while holding a board he was about to place on one of the windows of his pre-fab home.

- As far as possible -

In the road running through the mobile home park, the trunk of Alondra Espinoza's car is full.

"Everything is packed, we're ready to leave," she said, as the voice of a child is heard from inside the car.

"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids," said Espinoza.

"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have minded staying here. But this time is different. I want to get them as far away as possible from here and the danger or the hurricane."

Espinoza hopes her home is intact when she gets back but is prepared for the worst.

"We would stay with my brother until we find another place to live," said Espinoza.

Her neighbor Diego Hernandez is getting ready to head for a hotel in the city center with his family. They have taken the trouble of hoisting their furniture up off the floor in case of flooding.

The recent high school graduate says he is taking with him just the essentials -- food, clothes and whatever electronic gear he can carry.

"To be honest, I don't really know how to feel. But I know it's going to be bad. So I know it's going to be emotional and all that."

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