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Florence death toll reaches 23; destruction expected to worsen

The death toll from Florence hits 23 as rescue efforts continue in the Carolinas as flooding persists. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

As Tropical Depression Florence continues its assault on the Carolinas, the death toll continues to rise along with the devastating surge level.

What are the updates?

The death toll officially hit 23 on Monday, with authorities confirming that the body of missing 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch was located in North Carolina. Kaiden had been swept away by floodwaters the day before.

Officials from the Union County Sheriff's office believe Kaiden's mother drove around barricades and into water flowing over a roadway on Sunday, according to WSOC-TV. Her vehicle was swept off the road, and she was able to free Kaiden from his car seat, but lost her grip on the child while trying to escape through the rushing water.

In another heartbreaking account, 3-month-old Kade Gill was killed Sunday afternoon when a tree fell onto his family's mobile home in Gaston County, North Carolina. His mother had been holding him on the couch at the time.

Both mothers survived the incidents.

Prior to Kaiden's death, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety issued a breakdown of 16 storm-related fatalities by county, and Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed the updated tally of 17 during a news conference on Monday. The department also reported that more than 2,600 swift water rescues have occurred in the state, by boat or helicopter alone.

Another six people have died in South Carolina due to Florence, WSOC reported.

According to The Washington Post, the Marion County Sheriff's Office warned residents on Sunday: "We cannot beg you enough to stay off the roads. The list is too long to fathom of roads that are impassable."

On Sunday, Gov. Cooper told The Wall Street Journal, "Floodwaters are still raging across parts of our state, and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters."

At the news conference on Monday, he added, "We are expecting several more days of rain. Our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger. And then it will shift to putting our communities back together."

At its peak strength, Florence was a Category 4 hurricane, but was downgraded to tropical depression status on Sunday. Still, The Weather Channel warns that the risk of flooding within the storm's path will persist on Monday and Tuesday, as it travels north from the Carolinas and is expected to reach parts of New England.

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