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Death Toll Rises To 17, Thousands Rescued From Rising Water in NC

flooding south of downtown Lumberton
Jay Price
Flooding south of downtown Lumberton in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

Officials say the death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew has risen to 17.

Earlier in the day, officials in Robeson County said they found the body of a man who was in a car when it was washed away in the flooding. All but one of the victims were in vehicles when they died, according to authorities.

“Do not go through water,” Gov. Pat McCrory said during a live-streamed press conference Tuesday morning. “We've had over 10 people killed as a result of that. We're not messing around and we do not want to put people at risk to save you once you've made that decision.”

Related: Matthew's Not Done Yet: Historic River Flooding On Its Way

North Carolina officials have not yet released the names of the victims. In addition to the deaths here, officials in Florida report five more deaths, and in Georgia and South Carolina, three each. One death was reported in Virginia.

McCrory said a long stretch of Interstate 95 is still flooded in Cumberland County. He urged motorists to follow marked detours instead of looking for dangerous short cuts.

a flooded road after Hurricane Matthew
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC
Recovery continues around much of southeastern North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Here, a portion of Hwy. 701 about 20 miles from Elizabethtown remained flooded on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016.

Officials rescue thousands from flooded areas

State and federal teams have completed 2,000 swiftwater and helicopter rescues since Hurricane Matthew caused heavy flooding throughout eastern and central North Carolina. Most of those rescues have taken place in Cumberland and Robeson counties.  

McCrory praised the boat and helicopter crews for their bravery, adding that flooding is likely to get worse in certain areas.

He had strong words for the hold-outs in Spring Lake along the Lower Little River.

“Get out. Get out now,” said McCrory urging residents to comply with evacuation orders. “Right now, we're hearing there may be 50 or 60 people who are refusing the evacuation orders, and as Governor, that is unacceptable.”

McCrory thanked the residents of Greenville, Princeville, and Lenoir and Moore Counties who are cooperating with mandatory evacuations.

Three more people have also been reported missing in flooded areas. Two went missing in Cumberland County and one in Johnston County. Multiple media outlets report three other people who had been missing in Cumberland County were found.

Evacuations continue as rivers begin to crest

In Goldsboro, 800 inmates were evacuated throughout the night from the Neuse Correctional Facility as the namesake river began to surround the facility.

Hundreds of National Guard troops and high-water rescue teams have been deployed, with more on the way, according to the state's Department of Emergency Management. Many of those teams are headed to Duplin, Pitt, Lenoir and Green counties, according to McCrory. Rivers there are expected to crest today through Friday.

Flooding along NC 211 near Lumberton make roads impassable on Monday, October 10, 2016.
Credit Jay Price / WUNC
Flooding along NC 211 near Lumberton makes the road impassable for motorists on Monday, October 10, 2016.

Fatal shooting in midst of flooding evacuations

A North Carolina State trooper fatally shot a man as teams were helping people escape floodwater in Lumberton. Details are still emerging, but in a statement, officials with the state Department of Public Safety say the shooting happened Monday night as two Robeson County Sheriff’s officials and a State Highway Patrol sergeant encountered a man while traveling on a flooded portion of west Fifth Street.

 According to officials, the man became hostile towards the officers and displayed a handgun. The sergeant then fired a shot at the man, who later died of his injuries.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Colonel Bill Grey, commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said he was proud that first responders were in the community rendering aid to citizens.

“While we are saddened by any loss of life, I am thankful that our member and the Robeson County Sheriffs’ deputies were not injured,” Grey said.

Authorities have not yet identified the victim of the shooting. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting, but floodwaters are making the investigation difficult, according to Gov. McCrory.

Thousands of livestock also killed in floods

Farmers and livestock producers have also felt the impact of Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of hogs, chickens, turkeys and other livestock have drowned in floodwaters following the storm, and McCrory said authorities are working on a plan for disposal of the mass of dead animals.

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