June 25, 2016 08:31
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has declared states of emergency in 44 counties after the worst flooding in the mid-Atlantic state in 100 years killed 20 people.
"The damage is widespread and devastating," Tomblin said Friday. "Our focus remains on search and rescue."
As much as 25 centimeters of rain fell on Thursday, sending numerous rivers in the southwestern and central parts of the state over their banks and into the streets of nearby towns.
Greenbriar County Sheriff Jan Cahill said he is surrounded by "complete chaos."
"Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations, multiple sections of highway just missing, pavement just peeled off like a banana," Cahill said.
Tens of thousands are without power and hundreds are trapped in their homes. About 500 people were trapped inside a shopping center after a bridge providing a way out was washed away.
Other residents are stuck on rooftops after floodwaters filled their homes.
The West Virginia National Guard is helping with rescue efforts. Metrologists blame the floods on multiple thunderstorms concentrated in a relatively small area. The heavy rain also sent torrents pouring down mountainsides.
The same storm system caused tornadoes across the Midwest.
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