LUMBERTON — Twenty-two more people were rescued from high waters on Tuesday, and emergency officials hope they are done pulling people from their cars and homes in boats or off their roofs with helicopters.
Kellie Blue, the county finance officer who is working as a spokesman following Hurricane Matthew, said those rescues all happened early in the day, and were the result of calls for help not rescue teams scouring the county and looking for those in distress.
But on Tuesday, county officials were frustrated when they had to rescue 12 people from vehicles that were driven beyond barricades, which county emergency officials say is reckless and complicating efforts to help people who are already in need of aid.
Blue said in a statement,“Rescue folks can’t take care of individuals needing rescues if individuals are driving through barricades.”
Gov. Pat McCrory was more blunt in his advice, telling people to stay away from the water.
“It will kill you,” McCrory said during a press conference today. Later in the day, McCrory visited Robeson County and held a press conference at the county’s command center, where Blue is working.
The Lumber River reached a record flood level this week, and is expected to stay past flood level until at least Sunday despite a dry forecast. The river’s waters continue to rise in some areas while receding elsewhere.
Matthew has been blamed for five deaths so far in Robeson County.
Blue said state officials were also advising people:
— To use caution as power comes back on. There have been multiple house fires as power was restored.
— Use caution with generators. Three fires have been reported as a result of generators.
— Make sure fire exhaust is turned away from any vented areas.
There were reports today that a generator caught fire at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, but Amanda Crabtree, a spokesperson there, said what people believed was smoke was excessive exhaust from a generator and everything was OK at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Lumberton, Red Springs, Duke and Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation were working feverishly to restore power, with Lumberton and Red Springs having the most success.
Water is a problem in Lumberton, but most county water users now have it.