Sunday 21 January 2018

Thousands without power as rainstorm drenches US East Coast

Dillon Christ, front, and Kyle Barnell paddle their canoe down a flooded street in Charleston, South Carolina (AP)
Dillon Christ, front, and Kyle Barnell paddle their canoe down a flooded street in Charleston, South Carolina (AP)
An oak tree uprooted in the storms in South Carolina (AP)
Waves whipped up by winds from a low pressure system along Chesapeake Bay crash in front of homes (AP)

A dangerous rainstorm drenching the US East Coast has brought more misery to South Carolina - cutting power to thousands, forcing hundreds of water rescues and closing many roads because of floodwater.

Early on Sunday, emergency officials sent a statewide alert telling people to stay off roads and remain indoors unless their homes were in danger of flooding.

Major roads were closed by flooding in several spots - including a 75-mile (120-kilometre) stretch of an interstate highway in the eastern part of the state - and nearly 30,000 customers were without power.

The region around the state capital of Columbia was being hit particularly hard, with the city's police department tweeting: "Too many roads to name that are flooded. Please heed our warning! DO NOT venture out!"

The county government said 100 people had been rescued from vehicles after trying to cross flooded roads, while state officials reported a total of 200 swift-water rescues around the state. Columbia police said another 200 rescue calls were pending as of midmorning.

Local news showed dramatic images of flooding around the city, including rescuers wading into waist-deep water to help drivers trapped at a busy intersection.

Elsewhere, emergency personnel on boats were shown taking people from a Columbia apartment complex where water covered the roofs of vehicles in car park.

Emergency shelters were being opened around the state for displaced residents.

The Columbia area received the most rain in the state overnight, with up to 14 inches (36cms) reported in some places since Saturday.

To the southeast, meanwhile, rainfall had exceeded two feet (60 centimeters) since Friday in some areas around Charleston, though conditions had improved enough that residents and business owners were allowed back into the waterlogged downtown on a limited basis.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in South Carolina and ordered federal aid to bolster state and local efforts.

At least five weather-related deaths have been reported since rains began spreading over the Eastern Seaboard, which appeared to dodge the full fury of Hurricane Joaquin that is veering out to sea.

Press Association

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