West Virginia floods: Disaster-hit families try to recover, rescue operations continue

More than 20 people dead in floods in West Virginia floods Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencies West Virginia, United States Jun 26, 2016, 02.45 AM (IST)
Before Cathy Light and her husband Chris jumped in a rescue boat in Clendenin following a massive deluge in their area, the husband-wife duo could only save their dog Odie and a TV that sat atop a bedroom dresser, the highest-up they stored anything in their house. 

The heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia on Thursday resulted in at least 24 deaths, leaving families homeless with the tearful realisation that they're starting from scratch.

"I don't have anything," said Cathy, as she ate the free meal provided by Grace Community Church. "Where do we go now?" she helplessly asked. 

The scene in Clendenin, located in Kanawha County, wasn't as deadly as in Ranielle. Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County, at least 15 of them in Ranielle. Greenbrier is the only county where Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's administration believes people remain missing.

"It does not appear there are unaccounted for people in other counties, but it's still a somewhat fluid situation," informed Chris Stadelman, Tomblin's chief of staff.

Ranielle Mayor Andrea "Andy" Pendleton wept as she surveyed her town after floods. "I weep for my people, I weep for the businesses," she said.

Search and rescue teams went house to house, marking those checked with a spray-painted 'X.' Abandoned pets were taken to a shelter. A water department filtration system, built with a $2.6 million loan, was damaged, Pendleton said.

Multiple rivers have risen to dangerous heights 
Hundreds have been rescued from swamped homes following West Virgina's worst flooding in more than a century, officials said on Friday. 

The mountainous state was pummeled by up to 10 inches of rain on Thursday, causing rivers and streams to overflow.

The hardest-hit area was Greenbrier County in the southeast of the state, with 15 deaths, said. A spokeswoman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. 

Multiple rivers have risen to dangerous heights, including the Elk River, which reached 32 feet, the highest since 1888, Tomblin said.

Government officials are focusing resources on rescuing those trapped or swept away by the flooding, he said, adding that some 66,000 residences are without power.

In Elkview, emergency crews built a temporary roadway at the Crossings Plaza shopping center to rescue hundreds of people who were trapped there after the bridge connecting the shopping center to the road collapsed, NBC said.

The governor declared a state of emergency in 44 of 55 counties and deployed 200 members of the West Virginia National Guard to help rescue efforts on Friday.

Though rivers were expected to crest by Friday night, the rescue and recovery effort is likely to last through the weekend, the local authorities said.