Tue, Oct 11, 2016 - Page 7 News List

US focused on recovery, floods post-Matthew

Reuters, CAROLINA BEACH,North Carolina

Residents of the southeastern US ravaged by Hurricane Matthew yesterday turned their focus toward recovery and cleanup, but officials in several states warned that deadly flooding could continue as rain-swollen rivers crest in the coming days.

Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a tropical cyclone on Sunday after its rampage through the Caribbean killed 1,000 people in Haiti. In the US, the death toll rose to at least 19 people.

While power was being restored in some areas, 1.6 million people were without power in Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North and South Carolina, down from Sunday’s peak of 2.2 million.

Officials were working to clear streets of downed trees and abandoned vehicles.

With five people reported missing and rivers rising, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said he expected the death toll to rise. Eight people in the state were known to have died.

McCrory said several swelling rivers were expected to hit record levels and would not crest for days.

“Hurricane Matthew is off the map, but it is still with us and it is still deadly,” McCrory said.

The National Weather Service said “life-threatening flooding” would continue yesterday over eastern portions of the state.

Many coastal and inland communities remained under water, either from coastal storm surge, or overrun rivers and creeks.

All the 2,000 residents of Princeville, the oldest town in the nation incorporated by African-Americans, were told on Sunday to evacuate due to flash-flood risks. The town lies on the Tar River about 40km north of Greenville.

Several dams have breached in the area around Cumberland County, south of Raleigh, Michael Martin, fire marshal for the city of Fayetteville, said by telephone.

Rescue teams were still on alert and there have been 255 water rescue calls and 701 people rescued.

In neighboring South Carolina, a vehicle trying to cross a flooded road in Florence County was swept away by flood waters, killing one person, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said.

Jake Williams, a resident of Florence, said early yesterday that his power had been out since Saturday morning.

“Trees are down in every neighborhood, on almost every road,” he said. “I am no weather man, but would guess that the gusts of wind were near 100mph [161kph], and with soggy ground a lot [of] trees couldn’t stand up to it.”

In Virginia Beach, the city said it had received more than 33cm of rain and 55,000 people remained without power on Sunday night.

The city said that about 200 vehicles were abandoned and many roads remained impassable.

Norfolk, which declared a state of emergency, said efforts were under way to clear streets of debris and abandoned vehicles, with city offices, libraries and recreational centers set to reopen yesterday.

US President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia and Florida, freeing up federal money to help the states repair damaged infrastructure and remove debris.

McCrory said 334 rescue workers risked their lives carrying out 877 rescues overnight.

In one of the most dramatic rescues in North Carolina, out-of-state firefighters helped save three people from the roof of an SUV in inland Cumberland County.

Flash flooding turned a creek into a “roaring, raging river” that swept the vehicle off the road on Saturday night, said Battalion Chief Joe Downey of the Fire Department of New York.

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