Rescue crews scramble to deliver West Virginia flood victims to safety

Rescuers in West Virginia are rushing to save stranded residents from rising flood waters. 

Chris Dorst/Gazette-Mail/AP
Debris from the Jordan Creek near Clendenin, W.Va., piles up against a culvert along US 119 on Thursday night just before the creek's entry into the Elk River. Multiple fatalities have been reported in flooding that has devastated parts of the state, a state official said Friday morning.

Severe storms in West Virginia this week have prompted Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to declare a state of emergency in 44 counties. Rescuers are scrambling to save residents from rising floodwaters as crucial bridges and roads are washed out.

Storms began on Thursday morning, leaving approximately 40,000 people without power throughout the day. In Kanawah County alone, 10,400 customers lost power on Thursday.

Flooding has also been extreme in parts of West Virginia, washing out roads and rendering many areas inaccessible.

“The flooding we experienced Thursday and into today is among the worst in a century for some parts of the state,” Governor Tomblin said in a statement on Thursday.

In Elkview, W.Va., for example, flooding washed out a culvert connecting a large shopping plaza to a main road, leaving about five hundred people stranded. Local news station WSAZ reported last night that many were preparing to sleep in their cars as rescue crews pondered building a temporary bridge to save them.

Rushing waters also killed at least two young boys under the age of nine after they were swept away from family members in separate incidents. A third boy is still missing.

Rescuers are doing all that they can to reach the stranded and evacuate those at risk from flooding.

The Pine View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Harrisville and the Nicholas County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Richwood were both forced to evacuate after floodwaters threatened them. The Pine View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center eventually filled with several inches of water.

"We pretty much live in a bowl, and the bowl filled with water, certainly," Richwood city Mayor Robert Johnson told the Associated Press.

Mayor Johnson also announced that rescuers were moving some elderly and disabled people to safety at the Liberty Baptist Church in Richwood. 

Joe Coughlin, of Greenbrier County Homeland Security & Emergency Management, told the AP that first responders were picking up stranded residents by boat and bringing them to safety. 

On Friday, Tomblin issued a statement placing many West Virginia counties in a state of emergency, and thanking rescuers for their efforts.

“Joanne and I are thinking continually about those affected by this disaster, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones,” Tomblin wrote in a statement. “I appreciate the tireless efforts of first responders across the state, many of whom have volunteered to travel long distances to help those in the most affected areas.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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