Death toll rises to 11 as Florence pours on the rain

1 / 4
Cars drive on a wet road as rain from Hurricane Florence falls in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 13, 2018. (AFP)
2 / 4
During a driving rain, Maggie Belgie of The Cajun Navy, carries a child evacuating a flooding trailer community during Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, US September 15, 2018. (REUTERS)
3 / 4
Jordan McKeon leaves his kayak as his friend Nathaniel Harrison holds onto a stalled car that became stranded in rising flood waters while trying to cross an inundated bridge, after Hurricane Florence struck in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, US, September 15, 2018. (REUTERS)
4 / 4
A man gestures next to his flooded house following heavy rain near the Nigerian town of Lokoja, in Kogi State, on September 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 September 2018
0

Death toll rises to 11 as Florence pours on the rain

  • The flash flooding could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges
  • Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for almost 20 years

NEW BERN, N.C.: The Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles Saturday to rescue hundreds of people trapped by Florence’s shoreline onslaught, even as North Carolina braced for what could be the next stage of the disaster: widespread, catastrophic flooding inland.
The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm climbed to 11.
A day after blowing ashore with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Florence practically parked itself over land all day long and poured on the rain. With rivers rising toward record levels, thousands of people were ordered to evacuate for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.
More than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet (45 centimeters) by the end of the weekend.
“I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking your life,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.
As of 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 60 miles (95 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, inching west at 2 mph (4 kph) — not even as fast as a person walking. Its winds were down to 45 mph (75 kph). With half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it on land.
In its initial onslaught along the coast, Florence buckled buildings, deluged entire communities and knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses. But the storm was shaping up as a two-part disaster, with the second, delayed stage triggered by rainwater working its way into rivers and streams.
The flash flooding could devastate communities and endanger dams, roads and bridges.
Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the coast. The evacuation zone included part of the city of Fayetteville, population 200,000.
Officials in nearby Harnett County urged residents of about 1,100 homes to clear out because the Lower Little River was rising toward record levels.
One potential road out was blocked as flooding forced the shutdown of a 16-mile (26-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 95, the main highway along the Eastern Seaboard.
In New Bern , along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people.
Kevin Knox and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, part of a team using a phone app to locate people in distress. Mackie rode in a boat through a flooded neighborhood, navigating through trees and past a fencepost to get to the Knox house.
“Amazing. They did awesome,” said Knox, who was stranded with seven others, including a boy who was carried out in a life vest. “If not, we’d be stuck upstairs for the next ... how long? I have no idea.”
New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people in all were rescued in the town of 30,000 residents without any serious injuries or deaths. But thousands of buildings were damaged in destruction Roberts called “heart-wrenching.”
Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.
Coast Guard helicopters were taking off across the street to rescue stranded people from rooftops and swamped cars. Coast Guard members said choppers had made about 50 rescues in and around New Bern and Jacksonville as of noon.
Marines rescued about 20 civilians from floodwaters near Camp Lejeune, using Humvees and amphibious assault vehicles, the base reported.
In Lumberton, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) inland, Jackie and Quinton Washington watched water filling both their front and back yards near the Lumber River . Hurricane Matthew sent more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water into their home in 2016, and the couple feared Florence would run them out again.
“If it goes up to my front step, I have to get out,” Quintin Washington said.
The dead included a mother and baby killed when a tree fell on a house in Wilmington, North Carolina. South Carolina recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a highway.
Three died in one inland county, Duplin, because of water on roads and flash floods, the sheriff’s office said. A husband and wife died in a house fire linked to the storm, officials said, and an 81-year-old man died after falling and hitting his head while packing to evacuate.
Retired Marine Garland King and his wife, Katherine, evacuated their home in New Bern on Friday and returned Saturday, sharing a kiss and joining hands as they drew near their house.
“It was tough. Wobbling. I was looking for water moccasins to hit me at any time,” he said.
They finally made it, and found a soggy, stinking mess.
“The carpets. The floors. Everything is soaking wet,” Katherine King said. “We’re going to have to redo the whole inside.”
The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for almost 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches (60 centimeters) on the state.
As of noon, Emerald Isle had more than 23 inches (58 centimeters) of rain, and Wilmington and Goldsboro had about a foot (30 centimeters). North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had around 7 inches (18 centimeters).
Stream gauges across the region showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels. The Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were all projected to rise over their banks, flooding cities and towns.
Forecasters said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a sharp rightward swing to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of the week.


Hindu hardliners step up campaign to block Indian temple to women

Updated 7 min 26 sec ago
0

Hindu hardliners step up campaign to block Indian temple to women

  • The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala was meant to allow women from Wednesday
  • State authorities have insisted that they will ensure access to the temple

NILACKAL, India: Hindu hardliners blocked intersections, threatened drivers and ordered a 12-hour strike on Thursday as they stepped up their campaign to bar women from one of India’s holiest temples.
The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala was meant to allow women from Wednesday following an order last month by India’s highest court.
But hundreds of traditionalists, throwing stones at baton-wielding police, defied the order — surrounding and shouting at any woman attempting to make it to the hilltop site.
Angry young men also surrounded and smashed the car windows of female television reporters and threatened others, including an AFP reporter. Another female correspondent was kicked.
Overnight local Hindu groups declared a 12-hour shutdown of local businesses, telling drivers that their vehicles would be attacked if they took anyone toward the temple.
“Some men came to the parking lot early Thursday and warned taxi drivers against defying the shutdown call,” taxi driver Praveen, in the town of Pathanamthitta, said.
“They warned drivers at several nearby parking lots and hotels. Anyone who defies it will be risking damage to his vehicle,” he added in an account corroborated by other drivers.
“No one will get to the temple today because all the drivers are scared for the safety of their cars,” one hotel receptionist said.
State authorities have insisted that they will ensure access to the temple, imposing restrictions on public gatherings that came into force from midnight.
Kerala police, who have drafted in hundreds of extra officers, many with helmets and body armor over their khaki uniforms, provided escorts to some buses.
Police also patrolled through the night and reinforced their presence at Nilackal, the base camp below the temple.
But groups of between 50 and 100 young men gathered at intersections on Thursday, preventing any vehicles from continuing toward the temple.
“Traditions that have existed since before courts cannot be tampered with,” said Krishna Kumar, a tall muscular man in his 20s at one crossroads in the town of Kozhencherry.
Last month India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on females of menstruating age — judged between 10 and 50 years — entering and praying at the hilltop temple, reached by a tough uphill trek.
Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from some.
The entry of women at Sabarimala was long taboo but a ban was formalized by the Kerala High Court in 1991, a ruling overturned by India’s Supreme Court last month.
The restriction reflected an old but still prevalent belief among many that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that the deity Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate.
The Supreme Court ruling enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Biju S. Pillai, a local man in his 30s, was one of those opposed to the court ruling, telling AFP that he returned from working in Dubai to “protect the sanctity of the temple.”
“No one should be able to change the way this temple has functioned for centuries,” he said. “If any change is made they will have to kill us and go over our bodies.”
EP Jayarajan, a minister in the Kerala government, blamed the violence on “goons” from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a hardline Hindu group seen as close to Modi’s BJP.
The head of the BJP in Kerala, PS Sreedharan Pillai, said on Wednesday that their party advocated “peaceful protest against the court verdict.”
“The overwhelming majority of women oppose the Supreme Court ruling,” he added.