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Worst Floods in 100 Years Kill 23 in West Virginia

  • VOA News

State police and firefighters search homes along flooded streets in Rainelle, W.Va., June 25, 2016.

State police and firefighters search homes along flooded streets in Rainelle, W.Va., June 25, 2016.

Residents in storm-battered rural West Virginia have begun digging out from historic floods that killed at least 23 people and devastated entire communities with landslides and mudslides.

President Barack Obama declared Saturday that a major disaster existed in the state's hardest-hit areas, the southeastern counties of Greenbrier, Kanawah and Nicholas.

Paul Raines walks through his flooded Western Auto store in Rainelle, W.Va., June 25, 2016.

Paul Raines walks through his flooded Western Auto store in Rainelle, W.Va., June 25, 2016.

Authorities were braced for more fatalities as search teams fanned out over the area. Few details were available late Saturday on the missing or the dead.

The White House said federal aid would include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. A statement said additional money would be earmarked for aid to individuals and business owners hit by the disaster.

As much as 35 centimeters of rain (nearly 14 inches) fell in the region, with most of it falling in just several hours on Thursday. Rain has continued intermittently, and weather radar tracked a line of storm cells late Saturday stretching south to north in the flood-stricken area, just west of the community of White Sulphur Springs.

Mark Lester cleans out a box with creek water as he cleans up from severe flooding in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., June 24, 2016.

Mark Lester cleans out a box with creek water as he cleans up from severe flooding in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., June 24, 2016.

The deluge caused creeks, streams and rivers in the mountainous state to burst out of banks. The floods swept away houses, roadways, utilities and personal items belonging to residents of the distressed region.

"The damage is widespread and devastating," Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said Friday. "Our focus remains on search and rescue."

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