CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct 4 (Reuters) - Persistent torrential rainfall in South Carolina caused major flooding on Sunday, turning some suburbs of the city of Charleston into lakes and forcing hundreds of rescues across the state.
"This is record. There's never been a rainfall like this in the city's history," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who is in his 40th and last year as mayor, told reporters on Sunday morning.
Overnight rains flooded highways along the South Carolina coast between Charleston and Georgetown, the National Weather Service said.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in South Carolina on Saturday, making federal emergency funds available.
More than 17 inches of rain have fallen in the area in the past 48 hours and more is expected, forecasters said.
Local emergency officials urged residents to keep safe and dry at home and stay away from standing water.
"We're recommending that people stay home, but at the same time be very ready to act on calls from emergency officials," South Carolina Emergency Management Division spokesman Thom Berry said.
The city of Georgetown was predominantly under water, fire chief Joey Tanner said.
"We have every ambulance in the county out responding to calls. People are being moved from their homes in boats," Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach told Reuters by phone.
Water was five foot deep in some streets, according to Dave Loewenthal, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina.
County officials said 50 people were in shelters and the number was expected to increase, Broach said. Several fires were also reported as water seeped into electrical circuits and there were at least two gas leaks, the county said.
Inland flooding also hit the state capital, Columbia, as well as Richland and Lexington counties, and areas upstate around Greenville, according to Berry.
Bob Coble, a former mayor of Columbia, said on Facebook: "This is the worst flooding we have ever seen in Columbia. Worse than Hugo."
A daytime curfew was declared in Clarendon County on Lake Marion, between Columbia and Charleston, according to state emergency officials.
Counties reported more than 200 rescues from flood waters since Saturday night and more are expected, the emergency management division said in a Twitter post.
More than one hundred people in Richland County were rescued from vehicles that tried to cross flooded roads, Richland County said.
Residents were being rescued by law enforcement, fire rescue and emergency officials as well as other residents, Berry said.