North Carolina Army National Guardsmen and local emergency services assist with evacuation efforts in flooded neighbourhood in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Reuters)
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WINSTON-SALEM – Emergency crews in boats rescued hundreds of people from floodwaters and plucked others from rooftops by helicopter in North Carolina after former hurricane Matthew flooded much of the U.S. Southeast before weakening on Sunday and turning out to sea.
Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday after its rampage through the Caribbean killed nearly 900 people in Haiti and at least 16 people in the United States.
Haiti also has suffered from outbreaks of cholera and about 61 500 displaced people were in shelters, officials said. In the United States, more than two million U.S. homes and business had lost power.
The storm was moving east-northeast out to sea, according to the National Hurricane Centre’s 11 a.m. report, which placed the centre of the storm 100 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Its maximum sustained winds blew at 75 mph, down from 130 mph at full strength.
Officials said many coastal and inland communities were still under water, either from coastal storm surge or overrun rivers and creeks, and dangerous conditions existed from downed power lines and damaged homes.
U.S. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia and Florida, freeing up federal money to help the states repair damaged infrastructure and remove debris. North Carolina and South Carolina also could be in line for aid.
In North Carolina, where at least seven people died, Governor Pat McCrory warned flooding would be a “prolonged event” and pleaded for outside help, asking the country not to be too distracted by the U.S. presidential campaign, currently transfixed by a 2005 video of Republican nominee Donald Trump making vulgar comments about women.
“I realise political talk is dominating the airwaves on a lot of the other national channels but I want to let the rest of the nation know we need your help,” McCrory said.
Florida reported five storm-related deaths, Georgia three and South Carolina one. Flooding required 877 water rescues, including more than 500 in North Carolina's inland Cumberland County, McCrory said.
The governor said officials were looking for new rescue personnel to relieve the 334 federal, state and local responders who had been working through the night. (Reuters)