Swollen rivers near record levels as Florence looms

A map showing the point at which Hurricane Florence made landfall and the predicted path of the storm at the time

The death toll rose to at least 16.

The storm's death toll climbed to at least 18 when a 3-month-old child was killed when a tree fell across a mobile home in North Carolina on Sunday.

With Florence moving west at 8 miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, the National Weather Service is warning of sustained risk from life-threatening floods, landslides, downed trees and power lines.

In Wilmington, with its population of about 120,000, some 400 people have had to be rescued from flood waters, and most of the city remains without power. Tens of thousands of meals were being prepared to serve in the most damaged areas, and hotel rooms and other temporary housing are being located for people displaced from their homes.

"There are no roads. that are leading into Wilmington [N.C.] that are passable because of the flooding", Mayor Bill Saffo told member station WHQR on Sunday.

"Most main-stem rivers across central N.C. will flood", the National Weather Service office in Raleigh said on Monday, adding, "the Neuse, Cape Fear, Haw, Deep, Rocky and Little Rivers are now in flood". "If you live near a body of water, don't let your guard down and follow local evacuation orders!"

"There is no access to Wilmington", Woody White, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said Sunday at a news conference. "We want you home, but you can't come yet".

Fayetteville city officials, meanwhile, got help from the Nebraska Task Force One search and rescue team to evacuate 140 residents of an assisted-living facility to a safer location at a church. The whir of generators could be heard throughout the city, a sound not expected to dim soon as crews work to restore power. About 115 kilometers away from the coast, residents near the Lumber River stepped from their homes directly into boats floating in their front yards; river forecasts showed the scene could be repeated in towns as far as 400 kilometers inland as waters rise for days.

The head of Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said: "We'll get through this".

"Even though hurricanes are categorized by wind, it's the water that really causes the most loss of life".

Weather forecasters have repeatedly warned of flash flooding in the Carolinas, although Florence has been downgraded into a tropical depression.

Catastrophic floods raised the threat of dam breaks and landslides across the southeastern United States yesterday, prolonging the agony caused by a killer hurricane that has left more than a dozen people dead and billions of dollars in damage.

More than 2.4 million people were evacuated from China's southern Guangdong province ahead of the massive typhoon, the strongest to hit the region in almost two decades.

South Carolina's governor urged anyone in a flood-prone area to evacuate.

In Kinston, where water overran the banks of the Neuse River in the city in eastern North Carolina, a crowd of people gathered on Riverbank Road to look at the changed landscape of Neuseway Nature Park. High water has led to closures on Interstates 40 and 95, two major arteries.

By Sunday night, Florence's winds had dropped to about 30 miles per hour (45 kph), the National Hurricane Center said, with some weakening forecast over the next 24 hours before intensifying once again as an extra-tropical low-pressure centre.

The storm has begun to move into Virginia and West Virginia, and is expected to turn toward New England on Tuesday.

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