Emergency responders staged a large-scale rescue Thursday night at a church in Kelly, N.C., a small Bladen County town northwest of Wilmington.
“About 100 people had to be evacuated by boat and air after the town flooded when the Cape Fear River breached the levy there," Governor Roy Cooper said at a press conference Friday. "The North Carolina National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard, flying with night vision goggles, heroically saved lives.”
North Carolina National Guard Brigadier General Todd Hunt said the rescue operation began shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday and took six hours to complete. The evacuees, along with 33 animals, were rescued by helicopter and relocated to a shelter in Kinston.
A week after Florence made landfall, state officials are warning that some rivers have not yet crested, meaning flooding in parts of eastern North Carolina will continue into next week.
North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the Lumber River in Robeson County will likely crest a second time over the weekend, producing flooding that could last into early October.
Cooper urged residents to remain on alert for evacuation orders as conditions change.
Emergency responders have conducted nearly 5,000 rescues since Florence hit, more than twice as many as during Hurricane Matthew.