Tennessee floods: at least 21 dead and dozens missing

At least 21 people died and dozens remain missing in the State of Tennessee, southeastern United States, due to flooding caused by abundant and historic rains, which recorded up to 38 centimeters of rainfall in 24 hours.

The storm has persisted since Saturday and its consequences are seen in rural roads, routes and bridges destroyed, while thousands of people were without electricity.

The governor of the state, Bill Lee, described scenes of “loss and pain” in Waverly, a town of 4,500 inhabitants, where 20 of the 21 confirmed fatalities have died so far. “Our hearts and our prayers have to go out to the people of that community,” Lee said at a news conference.

Storm of rain and flooding of rivers

The riverside town of the Tennessee River is within Humphreys County, about 90 minutes from Nashville -the state capital-, which was one of the hardest hit and sustained a record rainfall for 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

Due to the rainstorm, the Piney River, in neighboring Hickman County, rose nearly 3.6 meters above its all-time high.

Police Chief Grant Gillespie said the other death occurred in a rural area in another part of the county, adding that some 20 people are still missing. “We are hopeful that we are reaching the bottom of that list,” Gillespie said.

Night curfew

The authorities imposed a night curfew while efforts to find the missing continued. For his part, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told CNN-affiliated local television that among the deceased were two small children while six others were missing today.

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Rescue operations continued Sunday with workers going from house to house to search for victims or people in need of assistance. Karen Phair, 61, told local newspaper The Tennessean that Waverly looked like a “war zone.” Another county resident, Rickey Larkin, 62, told the New York Times that he and his wife they had to cling to a mattress as a lifeline after an “ocean” flooded their home.

Dramatic scenes

The Waverly Department of Public Safety posted a list of missing people’s names on its Facebook page and asked local residents for help in finding them. Yesterday afternoon, the president Joe Biden gave a press conference in Washington where he offered his “deepest condolences on the sudden and tragic loss of life” in Tennessee.

“I asked the administrator of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to speak with Governor Lee of Tennessee immediately,” Biden said, noting that the White House was at the disposal of the southern state, the birthplace of country music and the rock and Roll.

Photos posted on social media showed a row of houses almost submerged in brown water, cars overturned or stacked on top of each other, and roads covered in mud and debris.

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