Tennessee flash floods kill 22, scores missing

Many people in the town of Waverly are searching for missing friends and relatives Tennessee
Many people in the town of Waverly are searching for missing friends and relatives

Twenty-two people have been killed and scores more are missing following flash floods in the US state of Tennessee.

Rescue crews are searching for more than 50 people in rural Humphreys County, which is west of Nashville.

The record-breaking flooding began on Saturday, submerging entire roads and taking out telephone and power lines.

Emergency workers are searching door-to-door in the worst-hit areas, with rescuers also combing through the debris of homes that were washed away.

The names of the missing have been listed on a notice board at an emergency centre in Humphreys County, with relatives left fearing the worst.

On the county’s Facebook page, people have been desperately seeking any information that could help locate their missing friends and relatives.

“My niece was swept away,” one woman wrote. “Her family is still looking for her. They were told she was found but it wasn’t her.”

People push a car in floodwaters in New York
Storm Henri has brought heavy rains to New York and other nearby states

“Me and my family are looking for our 6-year-old cousin,” another person wrote. “Any information is appreciated.”

Most of the missing are from the town of Waverly. The state’s Governor Bill Lee visited on Sunday.

“The loss of life and property damage is devastating,” he said. “Our hearts are with the many Tennesseans experiencing loss and heartbreak.”

One woman, Shirley Foster, discovered that a friend had died and approached Governor Lee as he walked through the town.

“I thought I was over the shock of all this,” she told him, according to the Associated Press. “I’m just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone.”

Thousands of people in Humphreys County have been left without power, while a reunification centre has been set up at a school. People have been asked to donate items to help those displaced.

Emergency officials expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.

“I would expect, given the number of fatalities, that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts,” Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan said.

At least 17 inches (43cm) of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours Saturday, breaking Tennessee’s one-day record.

It comes as another major weather event, Storm Henri, dumps heavy rain on the north-eastern US.

More than 120,000 homes are without power in the region after the storm made landfall in Rhode Island late on Sunday.

Millions of people across Long Island and southern New England have been told to prepare for coastal surges, flooding and downed trees and power lines.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has approved disaster relief for the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, which are expected to be hit hard by the storm.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was particularly concerned about the possibility of flooding in the Hudson River Valley and Catskill Mountains areas of the state.

“The storm hits Long Island and then slows. A slow storm is a problematic storm because when the storm slows, it continues to drop rain for a an extended period of time,” he said.

The storm is forecast to weaken as it pushes out to the Gulf of Maine on Monday afternoon.

Many factors contribute to flooding, but a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.

The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.