Flooding from Hurricane Matthew has killed up to 5 million poultry birds in North Carolina, most of them chickens, the state’s top environmental official said on Wednesday, hurting a major contributor to its economy. Donald van der Vaart, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, also told Reuters that some pits that hold hog waste on farms had been inundated with floodwaters. The waste, mixing with water, may eventually make its way into rivers, streams and the Atlantic Ocean.

Van der Vaart said he did not know how many pits had been inundated but that the environmental damage would be minimal because the hog waste will be “vastly diluted” by floodwaters. North Carolina officials have been racing to help farmers swamped by Matthew and to assess damages since the storm dumped heavy rains on the state over the weekend. READ MORE