LATTA, South Carolina – Authorities raised the official death toll from Hurricane – now Tropical Depression – Florence in the Carolinas to 15 on Sunday, while President Donald Trump promised the “full support” of the federal government for those affected by the storm.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a Sunday press conference that the eastern part of his state had sustained significant damage and that about 700,000 people were without electricity adding that “Flood waters are still raging across parts of our state, and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters.”
Trump said in several conversations with local authorities and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials that he was placing the “full support” of the federal government behind rescue efforts.
Meanwhile, US authorities in recent hours have rescued dozens of people who had become trapped by rising floodwaters dumped by Florence in North and South Carolina, mainly along the states’ coasts.
The Coast Guard and National Guard troops are participating in rescue operations that are ongoing mainly in North Carolina, where the rain from Florence is threatening to result in numerous rivers overflowing their banks.
A number of highways near the Lumber River have been cut, including I-95, which traverses the country from Miami to Canada.
Along one of the roadways, Latta, South Carolina, firefighters had to use a boat to rescue a young man who had become trapped in his vehicle in the middle of a huge swampy area of water.
The head of the Latta Rescue Squad told EFE that he expects many more people to need rescuing, adding that almost all the roads through the area have been inundated by the waters.
In North Carolina alone, Coast Guard helicopters on Saturday plucked 57 people from danger, having deployed 3,000 personnel to undertake rescue efforts.
Another of the main tasks assigned to the 35 Coast Guard rescue teams is to clear the roadways so that emergency vehicles can get to people who are calling 911.
Florence has taken 13 lives in the Carolinas so far, while intense rain continues to fall throughout the region.
The rainfall – which is the main concern of authorities – has broken historic records, with more than 30 inches (76 cm) falling in the city of Swansboro.
In Fayetteville and Wade, North Carolina, on Saturday authorities ordered the “immediate” evacuation of people whose homes are located less than a mile (1.6 km) from the Cape Fear and Little Rivers, due to the risk of flooding.
Florence is currently 40 miles (65 km) west of South Carolina’s capital of Columbia and moving northwest with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph).
Despite the fact that the storm has been steadily weakening since it made landfall on Friday, National Hurricane Center experts say that its rain will continue to bring flooding to a significant part of the Carolinas.