Tennessee floods: 22 dead and dozens missing after record rain in southeastern state

·3-min read

At least 22 people are dead after record-setting rain caused devastating flooding that swept away homes in the US state of Tennessee.

Around 40 people have been listed as missing on a Facebook page from officials in the city of Waverly.

Between 25cm and 30cm (10in to 12in) of rain caused floodwaters to reach 2.1m (7ft) inside some of the buildings affected.

Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said the dead ranged in age from young children to elderly people.

He said many of the missing were from neighbourhoods hit hardest by the flash floods on Saturday and the search for them continues.

Cars and entire houses were swept down a road in Waverly - about 60 miles (90km) west of Nashville - along with two girls holding a puppy and clinging to a wooden board, which onlookers were unable to grab hold of.

The National Weather Service said up to 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours, appearing to shatter the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than three inches.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited Waverly and stopped on Main Street where some homes were washed off their foundations and residents were sifting through their possessions.

He had earlier tweeted: "Tennesseans, please stay cautious of rising floodwaters caused by heavy rainfall in parts of Middle TN. We are actively working with emergency response officials & first responders as they support Tennesseans in flooded areas."

One resident, Shirley Foster, cried as the governor walked up after just learning a friend from her church was dead.

"I thought I was over the shock of all this. I'm just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone," Ms Foster told the governor.

The area was hit by lines of storms for hours, wringing out a record amount of moisture - a scenario that scientists have warned may become more frequent due to global warming.

The heavy rain rapidly turned the creeks that run behind backyards and through downtown Waverly into raging rapids.

Business owner Kansas Klein, who watched in horror from a bridge, said: "It was amazing how quick it came and how quick it left."

Low-income homes appear to have borne the brunt of the flash flood, according to Mr Klein, who spoke to the AP news agency.

More rain hit the town of McEwen, which was drenched with about 43cm (17in) of rain in less than a day, smashing the previous state record of 34.5cm (13.6in) from 1982.

It resulted in many people having to be rescued, roads being closed, and communications disrupted.

By Sunday, the floodwaters were gone, leaving behind a chaotic mess of destroyed homes and businesses and debris from wrecked cars and buildings.

The extreme weather comes as Hurricane Henri raced toward the northeast of the country, with the National Hurricane Center issuing a storm surge warning for New York and parts of New England, with up to 25cm (10in) of rain and tornadoes forecast in isolated areas.

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