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Record Rains Leave Parts Of South Carolina's Capital Under Water

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Yesterday, nearly 7 inches of rain fell in Columbia, S.C., the most rain ever recorded in a single day in the state's capital. It followed days of heavy rains leading to widespread flooding. At least seven people have died in the state, three of them in Columbia. We reached the mayor, Steve Benjamin. It is still raining there, and he's been manning the city's emergency center for several days now. Good morning.

STEVE BENJAMIN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How much of your city is under water at this moment in time?

BENJAMIN: I'll tell you what. You know, oftentimes we say we haven't seen anything like this before. No one has seen anything like this before. We were anticipating a 100-year event. This is a thousand-year event. Several portions of our city are under water. We're dealing with downed trees, downed power lines, a disrupted water and sewer system. Things are rough right now.

MONTAGNE: A lot of rescues being done?

BENJAMIN: Yes, we've had several hundred rescues. I will tell you, having our firefighters and police officers out, wading into - literally into dangerous waters, downed power lines, sink holes to rescue individuals, it's something we've never seen before, something we don't ever hope to see again. But I will tell you, Renee, 150 years ago this city was burned to the ground by General Sherman. We've risen like a phoenix from the ashes, since then turned into a very vibrant, dynamic city. And we'll come back from this, too.

MONTAGNE: And rain expected to continue for the next day or two. So you'll be dealing with that.

BENJAMIN: I'll tell you what. It's - you know, we've learned to control the things we can control and continue to pray for better weather. Hopefully, the rain goes away sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I have to make sure that our people remain focused on the number one priority. And that's making sure that we come through this with as many - as few casualties as possible.

MONTAGNE: That's Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., where the rains are expected to keep on coming - at least for another day or two. Mayor, thank you very much. Good luck to you.

BENJAMIN: Thank you for your time. Thank you for helping us get information out. God bless you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.