World

Matthew leaves flooding risks, power outages in its wake

Hundreds of people were rescued by boat and helicopter as floodwaters inundated North Carolina towns on Monday in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and officials warned that life-threatening flooding from swollen rivers would continue for days.

Storm blamed for 23 deaths in the U.S., more than 1,000 in Haiti — and death toll could still rise

Flooding in North Carolina

6 years ago
Duration 0:36
Hurricane Matthew floods streets, leaves people stranded

Hundreds of people were rescued by boat and helicopter as floodwaters inundated North Carolina towns on Monday in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and officials warned that life-threatening flooding from swollen rivers would continue for days.

Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday.

The hurricane killed more than 1,000 people in Haiti and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday some Haitian towns and villages had just about been "wiped off the map."

In the United States, the number of fatalities rose to at least 23, with nearly half in North Carolina.

An aerial view shows floodwaters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, N.C. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

After receiving as much as 39 centimetres of rain from Matthew over the weekend, North Carolina's skies were clear on Monday, but raging rivers and breached levees posed major problems.

"This storm is not over in North Carolina," Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters in Fayetteville. "It's going to be a long, tough journey."

Eleven people have died in the state, officials said. With rivers rising, the governor said he expected deaths to increase.

Emergencies declared

The flooding prompted President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in North Carolina on Monday, making federal funding available to affected individuals in 10 counties hit by the storm, the White House said in a statement. He had already done the same for Florida and Georgia.

Some 2,000 residents were stuck in their homes and on rooftops in Lumberton, off the Lumber River, after the city suddenly flooded on Monday morning, McCrory said. Air and water rescues would continue throughout the day, he said.

A man uses a small canoe to assist a neighbour in removing personal items from his home on Sunday as floodwaters rise in Lumberton, N.C. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Many of the homes and businesses in Lumberton were flooded with several feet of water on Monday afternoon and residents were seen paddling about the town in small skiffs.

Major flooding was expected this week in central and eastern towns along the Lumber, Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar rivers. The National Weather Service said the Neuse River would crest on Friday night and forecast "disastrous flooding."

Emergency officials in North Carolina's Lenoir County issued a mandatory evacuation order on Monday afternoon for residents and businesses along the Neuse River.

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

Ten-year-old Jack Terry, left, and his six-year-old sister Bailey check out a huge tree that uprooted in Forsyth Square following Hurricane Matthew after the storm passed through Savannah, Ga. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

McCrory told reporters that he had met with an elderly woman at a shelter on Monday who lost everything to floods.

"She's sitting in a school cafeteria at this point in time crying and wondering what her life is going to be all about," he said. "It breaks your heart."

Waterways at capacity

In neighbouring South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley warned that waterways were quickly reaching capacity around the state.

There are still more than 1 million people without power in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

"What might not be flooded today could be flooded tomorrow," Haley said at a news conference.

She said there had been at least three storm-related deaths, including one in which a person in a vehicle was swept away by floodwaters.

Warnings were also issued about downed power lines. An 89-year-old man in Florida was killed on Monday after touching a downed line, officials said.

While power was being restored in some areas, about 1.1 million people were still without power in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia.

Waves crash ashore near Fort Monroe, Va., Sunday in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. (Jonathon Gruenke/The Daily Press via Associated Press)

A federal judge on Monday granted a request from Florida's Democratic Party to extend the state's voter registration deadline by one more day, through Wednesday, because of the hurricane. Republican Gov. Rick Scott had rejected demands from Democrats to extend the deadline.

Meanwhile, a hurricane watch was issued for Bermuda, which could be threatened by another tropical system, Nicole, that is expected to reach the Atlantic island later this week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

With files from Associated Press

now