EASTERN, N.C. Over the past week, water has silently crept through towns and communities in Eastern N.C. claiming 24 lives, leaving people displaced, homes and businesses underwater, and much of the eastern part of the state in despair. But, as the water recedes from Hurricane Matthew, North Carolina begins the long journey toward recovery.Gov. Pat McCrory has been traveling the state to meet the citizens affected by the natural disaster and evaluate the damage caused by the rising river waters. The governor announced Thursday that the federal government has approved $5 million of early release federal highway funds for emergency repairs in N.C. Since the Expedited Major Disaster Declaration on Oct. 10, the federal government has already disbursed $2.6 million to disaster survivors. To date, more than 14,000 North Carolinians have already registered for the assistance. “We will survive. We are resilient. This is the best of North Carolina,” said McCrory on Friday in Edgecombe County.An area of more than 150 miles in North Carolina is covered in water. Edgecombe, Cumberland, Columbus, Lenoir and Robeson counties remain some of the hardest hit from Hurricane Matthew. “The people of Princeville have yet to see the damage to their homes and don’t know how difficult this will be,” said McCrory. “Eighty percent of the town is underwater.”The Tar River, which winds along the edge of Princeville, is finally receding after rising to more than 36 feet. The river had dropped to 35.73 feet Friday morning. The dike between Tarboro and Princeville — with a limit of 37 feet held, but major flooding still occurred in Princeville due to water entering the town around the dike via parts of U.S. 258. “We know this will get better. Our No. 1 priority was to not lose a life and we have not lost one in Edgecombe County,” said Princeville Mayor Bobbie Jones, whose own home is underwater. “We may have lost material possessions, but we have a determination to move forward, be successful in life and we have a belief in faith in our Jesus Christ,” he added. The Neuse River, which runs through major cities such as Goldsboro and Kinston, has brought much destruction and high waters as the river reached record levels surpassing those set by Hurricane Floyd. As of noon Friday, the river reached a new record of 28.29 feet. The Neuse River is expected to crest at 28.8 feet at 2 a.m. Saturday a foot above Hurricane Floyd levels from 1999. The river was expected to remain at major flood levels until Oct. 19 or 20.”Humanity is such an amazing thing,” said Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy. “To put in a biblical perspective, He creates something that in times of need, people just swarm together and love on each other.” Murphy, along with city and county officials, and a host of community volunteers have spent days knocking on doors, evacuating homes, filling sandbags by hand to protect businesses as the rising flood waters from the Neuse River continue to surround Kinston. The governor continued to urge those impacted to stay out of the flooded waters, and announced that officials were working with local, state and federal partners to find solutions for those who are currently in temporary shelters. Statewide there have been a total of 2,300 rescues, 1,083 members of the National Guard deployed, 63 emergency vehicles activated, 33 school systems closed and 3,400 people living in shelters. In addition to the flooding of structures, the agricultural industry has suffered great losses. There have been 1.8 million poultry and 4,800 hog losses across the state. Disposal of the poultry remains a top concern due to the environmental hazards the losses bring. In Eastern North Carolina, 32 counties were approved for federal funding to help augment the costs of responding to the storm, and 14 counties where homeowners and renters can apply for federal assistance to repair or rebuild damaged homes. Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available to people in 20 counties. “Entire towns have been destroyed with record flooding from Hurricane Matthew, meaning many businesses and employees have been directly impacted,” said McCrory. “This assistance will help those suffering during these difficult times to begin rebuilding their lives.” Those counties approved for disaster unemployment insurance include: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Dare, Edgecombe, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wayne and Wilson counties. The governor activated the state’s Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund to support long-term recovery efforts in partnership with the United Way of North Carolina. People or organizations that want to help ensure North Carolina recovers can visit NCdisasterrelief.org or text NCRECOVERS to 30306.
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