Drownings push hurricane death toll to 19
in flooded North Carolina
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[October 13, 2016]
By Nicole Craine
KINSTON, N.C. (Reuters) - Rivers swollen by
rainfall from Hurricane Matthew rose dangerously higher in North
Carolina on Wednesday, prompting officials to go door to door urging
residents to leave as a wide swath of the state faced its worst flooding
in 17 years.
Floodwaters have swamped areas across the central and eastern part of
the state, where drownings in recent days have brought the death toll to
That figure represents more than half of the deaths in the U.S.
Southeast linked to the fierce Atlantic storm, which killed around 1,000
people in Haiti and displaced hundreds of thousands as it tore through
the Caribbean last week.
Matthew caused an estimated $10 billion in total U.S. property losses,
about $5 billion of which are insured, according to a preliminary
estimate by Goldman Sachs.
The damages continue to mount in North Carolina. Flooding has killed up
to 5 million poultry birds, most of them chickens, in a blow to the
local economy, said North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
Secretary Donald van der Vaart.
The floodwaters have forced more than 3,800 residents to flee to
shelters, closed down stretches of major interstate highways and
shuttered 34 school systems, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory told
reporters in Raleigh.
Emergency officials rescued dozens of people on Wednesday from flooded
homes in areas including Robeson and Pender counties. There were no
official estimates as to the number of people and homes still in harm's
way in the state.
Matthew's aftermath drew comparisons to Hurricane Floyd, which triggered
devastating floods in North Carolina in 1999 and caused more than $3
billion in damages in the state.
In Kinston, where the Neuse River is expected to peak on Saturday at
almost twice the 14-foot (4.3 meter) flood stage and just shy of the
Floyd record, city officials warned residents not to be fooled by the
water's gradual rise.
"Itís not like itís a tidal wave thatís coming. Itís a slow rise," city
manager Tony Sears said in a phone interview.
But, he added, "in the next 24 hours, itís not whether I should go or
not, itís when you should go."
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Nazareth Gray (4) sits on the edge of a cot at the Carver Heights
Elementary School shelter after her and her grandmother Margaret
(not pictured) were displaced by the effects of Hurricane Matthew in
Goldsboro, North Carolina, U.S. October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Randall
Residents should be prepared to be out of their homes for more than
a week, Sears said, with river levels expected to remain elevated
into next week.
Kinston resident Toby Hatch, 60, who lived through Floyd and
Hurricane Irene, which destroyed his home in 2011, heeded the city's
evacuation order this week and headed to a shelter.
"I didnít really want to leave, but I was already looking at enough
water that I was trapped," he said.
Evacuations also continued in Greenville, where the Tar River was 10
feet (3 meters) above flood stage and forecast to crest even higher
by Friday. Flooding has forced the city's airport to close and
classes were canceled for the week for East Carolina University's
In Goldsboro, where the Neuse River peaked on Wednesday at a record
level, Tony Rouse, 56, had taken refuge at an elementary school with
his wife. His home lost power and all the roads leading to it were
inundated, he said.
"It's kind of boring," he said of life at the shelter, "but it beats
not being able to eat."
(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Writing by Colleen Jenkins;
Editing by Bill Trott and Tom Brown)
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