Flood fears continue despite departure of Hurricane Matthew from US

Hurricane Matthew has gone from the US, but the disaster its rains unleashed will be felt throughout the week as rivers across eastern North Carolina rise to levels unseen since Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999.

Flood fears continue despite departure of Hurricane Matthew from US

Hurricane Matthew has gone from the US, but the disaster its rains unleashed will be felt throughout the week as rivers across eastern North Carolina rise to levels unseen since Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999.

Emergency planners are using models which can pinpoint exactly how high the rivers can get and which buildings will be flooded days in advance.

But they cannot predict dams and levees breaking from the stress of more than a foot of rain in some places.

In Lumberton, a levee broke overnight and crews scrambled to rescue 1,500 people.

Most of them were in knee-deep water, but some people were waiting on rooftops waiting for boats or helicopters, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory said.

Evacuations are being ordered in cities along three different rivers. Some waterways are expected to hit record levels on Friday - six days after Matthew's rains ended.

State resources are being stretched to their limit, and Mr McCrory told people to heed the warnings.

"If you've been told to evacuate, then evacuate. If you don't, we have to divert resources to the area to save you," he warned.

Immediately after Saturday's rains, thousands of people found themselves suddenly trapped in homes and cars during the torrential rains.

Rescuers in Coast Guard helicopters plucked some of them from rooftops and used military vehicles to reach others, including a woman who held onto a tree for three hours after her car was overrun by flood waters.

The storm has killed more than 500 people in Haiti and at least 21 in the US - nearly half of them in North Carolina. Most were swept away by flood waters.

Mr McCrory and others fear the death toll may rise as impatient people drive around road barricades into swiftly moving floodwaters.

The National Hurricane Centre issued its last advisory on Matthew at 5pm on Sunday when the storm was about 200 miles off the North Carolina coast.

Princeville, a town of 2,000 which disappeared in the waters of the Tar River during Hurricane Floyd, was evacuated on Sunday. The river was expected to rise to 17ft above flood stage.

Mr McCrory expects more evacuations as some rivers are predicted to crest next Friday.

Several sections of Interstate 95 - the main road artery linking the US east coast from Florida to Maine - were closed in North Carolina.

The levee break in Lumberton County poured even more water on the road and Mr McCrory said it is impossible to determine when the highway might reopen.

The Lumber River in Lumberton crested 4ft above its record level on Sunday afternoon and was forecast to remain above its previous record until at least next Saturday.

In addition to the 10 deaths in North Carolina, there were four in Florida and three each in Georgia and South Carolina. One death was reported in Virginia on Monday.

Some were killed by falling trees, others by carbon monoxide fumes from a generator. One 66-year-old man died at a nursing facility near Columbia in South Carolina when he was pinned under his electric wheelchair in water.

Nearly one million homes and businesses still did not have power on Monday morning in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Authorities in coastal Georgia and South Carolina warned residents it may take days or even weeks to restore electricity and clean up all the debris left behind by the winds and ocean flooding.

Matthew killed more than 500 people in Haiti last week, ploughing into the impoverished country at 145mph.

The fearsome storm then sideswiped hundreds of miles of the US coastline from Florida through Georgia and the Carolinas, its eye staying far enough offshore that the damage in many places along the coast was relatively modest, consisting mostly of flooded streets, flattened trees and blown-down signs and awnings.

A shift of just 20 or 30 miles could have meant widespread devastation nearer the ocean.

An estimated two million people in the south-east were ordered to evacuate their homes as Matthew closed in.

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