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Several dead from flooding at North Carolina campsite

Water rescue personnel and fire departments saved 31 people from their vehicles, a county official said.

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Floodwaters from a nearby river overtook recreational vehicles at a North Carolina campsite Thursday, killing three people and leaving two others missing, including a child, an official said.

In addition to the three deaths at the Hiddenite Family Campground in Alexander County, a motorist was killed in the county while traveling on a road that was washed out by rising water, said Doug Gillespie, county director of public services.

“Just massive amounts of flooding,” Gillespie said. “We've had approximately 50 roads across the county (which) have been compromised. Four bridges have been washed away.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency.

Areas across state saw between 4 and 9 inches of rain, according to Cooper. Flooding will continue through Friday as rivers continue to rise.

"This storm has already claimed several lives, and everyone should exercise caution by avoiding flooded roads and areas along swollen creeks and rivers," Cooper said. "Our prayers go out to the families and friends of those who were injured or killed by these devastating floods."

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In Rolesville, just north of Raleigh, police reported a child drowned on Thursday in a creek swollen by the rain. The child, whose name and age were not released, was recovered unresponsive from the water about an hour later, according to Rolesville police.

According to Gillespie, the floodwaters either covered or swept away the recreational vehicles at the campground, which is next to the South Yadkin River and is home for many of the people caught in the flood.

“It was a massive amount of water. Now, there's a massive amount of debris,” he said,

Swift water rescue personnel and local fire departments saved 31 people from their vehicles, some of them hanging onto their campers, according to Gillespie. He said three people were taken to the hospital for treatment, and two have been released.

Of the two people still missing, one of them was a child about 1 year old, Gillespie said.

Fixing the roads and bridges will take time, he said.

“This is not going to be a two-day fix, a two-week fix,” Gillespie said. “It will be a months-to-a-year fix.”

The campground is approximately 50 miles north of Charlotte, where a portion of Interstate 85 was closed because of flooding, and city officials said emergency personnel were performing water rescues. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte told students not already on campus to stay away because of widespread flooding.

To the east, some school systems dismissed classes ahead of schedule because of the rain.

Duke Energy said approximately 3,100 customers were without electricity across North Carolina as of Thursday afternoon.

National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Tatro said the rain was the result of a band of tropical moisture moving up ahead of Tropical Storm Eta in the southeast and interacting with a cold front moving across the Carolinas. The cold front passage was going to occur regardless of Eta, but the flow around the tropical storm helped move the moisture northward toward the Carolinas.

Forecasters said North Carolina could expect between 2 and 5 inches of rain, with heavier amounts locally.