(SKY NEWS) — Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina as Tropical Storm Florence continues to dump an “epic” amount of rainfall on the US state.
Some towns have endured more than two feet of rain and forecasters say that more than three feet of water could bring major flooding further inland in the coming days.
At least seven people, including a mother and her baby, have been killed by Florence, which was initially categorised as a hurricane with 120mph winds.
By Saturday morning the winds weakened to 50mph but the storm’s slow speed means that communities in North Carolina are receiving a prolonged battering by torrential rain.
The National Hurricane Center said as much as 40in (102cm) was expected on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern South Carolina.
Southwestern Virginia is also expecting up to 10in (25cm).
North Carolina’s governor Roy Cooper said: “Know that water is rising fast everywhere, even in places that don’t typically flood.
“This system is unloading an epic amount of rainfall: in some places, measured in feet, not inches.”
One of the towns worst affected is New Bern, which sits between the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina.
The 18th century town, with a population of 30,000, has been badly flooded, with 4,200 homes damaged.
More than 100 people were rescued and up to 75 more were awaiting rescue on Saturday morning, according to a town official.
US correspondent Cordelia Lynch, who is in New Bern, said: “This community in the weeks and months to come is up against a great deal of flooding.
“The sad thing is that this is a low income area – a lot of people just don’t have insurance but they are too attached to their homes and families to leave.”
Florence’s death toll could rise as a number of deaths are being investigated to see if they were caused by the storm.
A mother and baby were killed after a large tree fell on their home in Wilmington, while in Pender County a woman died of a heart attack after storm debris prevented paramedics from reaching her.
In Lenoir County a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords and another man died after being blown away by high winds while checking on his dogs.
Nearly 814,000 homes in North Carolina and 170,000 in South Carolina are without power. Across the two states there are some 30,000 people staying in emergency shelters.