ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (AP) _ The state and federal governments will spend $48.9 million to remove 431 Rocky Mount homes flooded by Hurricane Floyd _ the largest single home-buyout grant ever approved, officials said Friday.

Homes bought with the money will be torn down and the land will be kept as open space. That, in turn, will reduce future losses.

``This is one package for one town, and it's the biggest we've ever done,'' said Mary Margaret Walker, spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Floodwaters soaked about 700 housing units in the city of 60,000 when Hurricane Floyd dumped nearly 2 feet of rain on the region last September. Floyd was North Carolina's worst natural disaster, blamed for at least 51 deaths and $6 billion or more in damage.

``Many of our residents are still suffering and are in need of help, and today's announcement will enable us to move forward and get them the help they need to put their lives back together,'' said Mayor Fred Turnage.

The grant is being made under a program run by the state and FEMA to remove homes from flood-prone areas; 25 percent is state money.

``When communities place an emphasis on disaster prevention, we will begin to see a cut in the economic and emotional costs of disasters,'' said FEMA director James Lee Witt.

Altogther, the state plans to seek $291 million to buy 4,160 structures that once housed about 5,000 families. As of April 30, FEMA had earmarked $55.9 million for buyouts.