Death count climbs to 11 as South Carolina flooding continues

CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct. 5 (UPI) — At least 11 people are confirmed dead from flood-related incidents in South Carolina, authorities said Monday.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety confirmed seven people drowned and four died in traffic accidents. Residents have been urged to stay off the roads and stay home.

“This is not the time to take pictures,” Gov. Nikki Haley said. She warned that although the rain is subsiding, the danger continues.

Flood waters are draining from the eastern part of the state downhill toward the ocean. As many as nine dams have failed, a South Carolina Emergency Management Division spokesman said.

More than 400,000 people are without water. About 26,000 remain without power. More than 900 are in shelters with more evacuations likely, Haley said.

The state is being slammed by a weather event Haley said happens once every 1,000 years.

A crushing combination of moisture from Hurricane Joaquin with a low-pressure system dumped more than a foot of rain on many parts of the state. South Carolina has taken the brunt of it, but heavy weather doused the East Coast as far north as New Jersey.

President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in South Carolina.

Joaquin was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, and has turned northeast over the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda, though the rain could continue through Wednesday. Flash flood warnings remained in effect through Monday evening.

Meanwhile the U.S. Coast Guard, Air Force and Navy searched for the El Faro a 790-foot American cargo ship missing since Thursday morning near the Bahamas when Joaquin was lashing the region. The ship had 33 people aboard when crew members reported the ship was flooding and its engine had died.

An oil sheen, containers and life preservers were spotted by search crews in the area but cannot be linked to the El Faro. So far, the search has covered more 70,000 nautical miles and continued Monday.

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