Morning top 5: US evacuations ahead of Hurricane Matthew; Fianna Fáil support falls sharply

The headlines this Thursday morning...

People have begun fleeing the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, stripping some stores of food, water and petrol as Hurricane Matthew continues its path towards the US.

Forced evacuations are under way in Florida's Brevard and Martin counties, with governor Rick Scott saying the state could be facing "its biggest evacuation ever".

A mass evacuation of a quarter of a million residents has also begun in South Carolina.

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Micheál Martin is still the most popular leader in the country, despite a big drop in support for his party.

The latest Ipsos/MRBI poll in today's Irish Times shows Fianna Fáil is down seven points to 26% support, neck and neck with Fine Gael, which has gone up by two.

Sinn Féin is on 19%, Labour is on 5% and independents and others have risen slightly to 24%.

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Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is to face the Public Accounts Committee today over the sale of Project Eagle.

Mr Noonan will be quizzed about whether the portfolio of Northern Irish properties was sold for well below its potential price.

A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General found that the deal may have resulted in a loss of more than €200 million to the taxpayer.

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New insurance research has revealed the level of damages paid out on personal injuries in the past two years.

The Personal Injuries Assesment Board says payouts of up to €15,700 are being awarded to people with whiplash.

Whiplash accounts for between 70% to 80% of all claims, and the industry has blamed higher insurance premiums on higher compensation payouts.

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A former top US general has warned that it was increasingly likely that Syria would "not be able to be put back together again".

David Petraeus, who as a military commander turned the tide in Iraq before going on to become the director of the CIA, predicted in a Sky News interview that the conflict-ravaged country would never again operate as a single nation.

Instead, he envisaged Syria split into autonomous regions led by president Bashar al Assad and his Alawite Shia minority, the Syrian Kurds and the Sunni Arabs.