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Death toll rises to 8 as Florence pours on the rain

AP  |  New Bern 

The Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles Saturday to rescue scores of people trapped by Florence's shoreline onslaught, even as braced for what could be the next stage of the disaster: widespread, catastrophic flooding inland.

The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm climbed to eight.

A day after blowing ashore with 145 kph winds, practically parked itself over land all day long and poured on the rain. With rivers rising toward record levels, thousands of people were ordered evacuated for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in history.

More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1 feet by the end of the weekend.

"I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them you are risking your life," Gov said.

As of 5 pm, was centered about 95 kilometers west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, inching west at 4 kmph not even as fast as a person walking. Its winds were down to 75 kmph. With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.

In its initial onslaught along the coast, Florence buckled buildings, deluged entire communities and knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses. But the storm was shaping up as a two-part disaster, with the second, delayed stage triggered by rainwater working its way into rivers and streams.

The flooding could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridge.

Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles in from the coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.

Officials in nearby urged residents of about 1,100 homes to clear out because the was rising toward record levels. One potential road out was blocked as flooding forced the shutdown of a 26-kilometer stretch of Interstate 95, the main highway along the Eastern Seaboard.

In , along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people. More than 360 people had been carried to safety since Thursday night.

and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, part of a team that was using a phone app to locate people in distress. Mackie rode in a boat through a flooded neighborhood, navigating through trees and past a fencepost to get to the Knox house.

"Amazing. They did awesome," said Knox, who was stranded with seven others, including a boy who was carried out in a life vest.

"If not we'd be stuck upstairs for the next ... how long? I have no idea."

Across the from New Bern, Jerry and returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.

helicopters were taking off across the street to rescue stranded people from rooftops and swamped cars. members said that choppers had made about 50 rescues in and around and as of noon.

Also, Marines rescued about 20 civilians from floodwaters near Camp Lejeune, using Humvees and amphibious assault vehicles, the base reported.

In Lumberton, about 80 miles inland, Jackie and watched water filling both their front and back yards near the . Hurricane Matthew sent more than 5 feet of water into their home in 2016, and the couple feared Florence would run them out again.

"If it goes up to my front step, I have to get out," said.

The dead included a mother and baby killed when a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a highway.

Three died in one inland county, Duplin, because of water on roads and floods, the sheriff's office said.

The said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for almost 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got over 30 inches and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state.

As of noon, had over 23 inches of rain, and and Goldsboro had about a foot. North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had around 7 inches.

Stream gauges across the region showed water levels steadily rising, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels.

Forecasters said the storm will eventually break up over the and make a sharp rightward swing to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the states and by the middle of the week.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, September 16 2018. 03:30 IST
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