WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Matthew’s rains triggered severe flooding in North Carolina on Sunday as the deteriorating storm made its exit to the sea, and thousands of people had to be rescued from their homes and cars. The death toll in the U.S. climbed to at least 15, nearly half of them in North Carolina.
The storm was stripped of hurricane status just before daybreak, but the crisis — set off by more than a foot of rain — was far from over.
“As the sun rises in North Carolina and the blue sky returns, our state is facing major destruction and, sadly, loss of life,” Gov. Pat McCrory said as the effects of Saturday’s deluge became clearer at daylight.
McCrory said police and emergency crews had made more than 880 water rescues. In the Fayetteville area alone, emergency workers and police saved nearly 600 people from rapidly rising floodwaters, officials said.
The governor said that four people were missing in the Fayetteville area and that the full scale of the disaster was not yet known because the flooding continued overnight and there were many places that search teams had not yet reached.
“There could be some backroads where we had people swept away. I’m praying that is not going to be,” McCrory said.
Most of the deaths happened when vehicles were swept away by floodwaters.