NASHVILLE, USA: At least 22 people have been killed as rescuer searched shattered homes and debris for dozens of people still missing after floods due to heavy rains in Tennessee state.
Flooding in rural areas took out roads, mobile phone towers, and telephone lines, leaving families uncertain about whether their loved ones survived the unprecedented deluge.
Emergency workers were searching door to door, said Kristi Brown, a coordinator for health and safety supervisor with Humphreys County Schools.
Many of the missing live in the neighbourhoods where the water rose the fastest, said Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis, who confirmed the 22 fatalities.
The names of the missing were on a board in the county’s emergency centre and listed on a city department’s Facebook page.
The dead included twin babies who were swept from their father’s arms, according to surviving family members and a foreman at county music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch.
A series of storms moved over the area for hours at the weekend, wringing out a record amount of moisture — a scenario scientists have warned may be more common because of global climate change.
Grey Collier, public information officer for the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency, said hundreds of homes may be uninhabitable. The flooding took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines.
The hardest-hit areas saw double the rain that area of Middle Tennessee had in the previous worst-case scenario for flooding, meteorologists said.
Kansas Klein, a business owner in the town of Waverly, told the news agencies that a low-income housing area known as Brookside was severely damaged in the floods.
“It was devastating: Buildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed,” Klein said. “People were pulling out bodies of people who had drowned and didn’t make it out.”
Bill Lee and US Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty arrived in the county via helicopter Sunday to survey the damage.
“Goodness gracious,” Lee said on a car ride as he saw homes taken off their foundations and moved into neighbours’ yards.
In McEwen, Tennessee, 60 miles west of Nashville, a state-record 17 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours.
The town of Waverly, about 10 miles west, saw about 15 inches, turning the creeks that run behind backyards and through downtown into raging rapids.