Women chained in police van drown in Hurricane Florence floods


US President Donald Trump visited storm-ravaged North Carolina on Wednesday, while the state's governor, Roy Cooper, pleaded with thousands of evacuees not to return home just yet, warning the flooding is far from over and will get worse in some places.

The Department of Public Safety says all of Interstate 95 in SC is now open.

Initial reports said that the women were in chained restraints, but the Sheriff's Office is disputing them.

Authorities confirm two detainees drowned when a van was swept away in rising flood waters in SC.

The Little Pee Dee River reached major flood stage after Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas over the weekend and is expected to crest at 16 feet on September 21, seven feet higher than flood stage. As waters surged, the sheriffs realized there was no way they continue their journey by van; if anything, staying in the van was putting them at risk.

Thompson said there was one door to the containment area of the van where women were trapped.

In a statement, the sheriff's office said the two deputies escaped from the cab and tried to get the women out of the back. At almost 7 p.m. Wednesday, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the bodies had been recovered.

The Lumber River as of September 19 was still in "major" flood stage in several places, according to the National Weather Service. The Little Pee Dee River rose almost 3 feet (1 meter) over the same time.

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Richardson said the incident happened on Pee Dee Island Road off U.S. Highway 76 outside of Nichols. The Lumber River overflowed its banks following the record rains dumped by Hurricane Florence.

After submerging North Carolina with almost one metre of rain, the storm dumped more than 16.5cm of rain in the Northeast, where it caused flash flooding. That effort resumed Wednesday morning, and Thompson said a specialized crew was being flown in from Charleston to assist.

The two individuals being transported were confirmed dead by the Marion County Coroner.

Earlier Wednesday, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson had identified Newton with a different last name.

Tuesday night, with the van still underwater, state police were on the way to the scene, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesperson told a local news station.

Two deputies transporting the patients jumped into action. Florence has claimed at least 27 lives in North Carolina.

"At this time, the recovery effort is ongoing, and the transportation vehicle can not be removed due to rising waters and risky conditions", the sheriff's office said.