2 missing men found alive in US floods

2016-06-27 18:39
A fireman marks a flooded home as searched and empty as he and a crew search homes in Rainelle. (Steve Helber, AP)

A fireman marks a flooded home as searched and empty as he and a crew search homes in Rainelle. (Steve Helber, AP)

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Ansted - Two men who were presumed dead when their camper was swept away in rushing waters during the West Virginia floods have been found alive, officials said onMonday as the rain-soaked state braced for another round of heavy  rains.

The discovery lowers the death toll to 23, state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato said in a statement. The number of dead includes 20 bodies found and three people who are missing and presumed dead.

Details of where the two men were found alive were not immediately released.

More heavy rain is forecast on Monday for parts of the state.

"Everybody's just keeping an eye on the sky" as search and rescue teams continue to check whether everyone is accounted for, West Virginia Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Tim Rock said.

The National Weather Service warned downpours were possible in many areas already ravaged by flooding, including Kanawha and Nicholas counties. The forecast also included hardest-hit Greenbrier county, where floodwaters have yet to recede.

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are taking stock of the damage and National Guard crews were removing debris, Rock said.

Recovery teams plan to work as much as possible, but may pull back if storms intensify, he said.

Many residents were trying to come to grips with ruined property and where they'll live next.

On Sunday, dozens of residents from flooded-out Rainelle remained at a shelter more than 40km away at the Ansted Baptist Church, where singing from inside mixed with the bustle of activity outside.

Donated food, makeshift kennels

The church's gymnasium has been converted to a shelter. The church also is a drop-off point for donated goods as well as a makeshift kennel for dog owners.

For now, it's home for Jerry Reynolds, his wife, Janice, and his brother, Marcus Reynolds.

Janice Reynolds said she drove back to Rainelle on Saturday to survey the damage. She said her home was destroyed, a vehicle was lost in the floodwaters and the community "smelled like death."

Marcus Reynolds found a bit of humuor amid the sorrow.

"While we're at it, would you be interested in any oceanfront property?" he said. "I understand there's some available."

Bill Kious of Rainelle was asked how those at the shelter, many of them on modest incomes, were able to laugh.

"Frankly, because we've lived a rough lifestyle," Kious said. "It's a nature to us that we can't get rid of."

Rick Lewis of the Nuttall Fire Department said 129 people were staying on Sunday at the church gymnasium. Many more Rainelle residents were sent to other shelters, he said.

Among those taking advantage of the shelter's kennel was TJ Parker of Rainelle and his pet Titan.

Parker said he and Titan had to swim four blocks to safety. Along the way, he stopped to rescue an elderly man calling for help and brought him through floodwaters to a fire department. Parker said he had to go under water and hold his breath to support the man and come up for air.

"I realise that sounds crazy, but you have to do what you have to do at that time," Parker said.

Damage of over $570m

Authorities have yet to start sizing up the flood damage in West Virginia. But it is drawing comparisons to November 1985 floods that remain the state's most expensive natural disaster with more than $570m in damage.

The 1985 floods left 47 dead in West Virginia, more than half of them in Pendleton and Grant counties. The Potomac River at Paw Paw crested almost 9m above flood stage. More than 3 500 homes, 180 businesses and 43 bridges statewide were destroyed. Twenty-nine counties were declared federal disaster areas.

Sunday marked the first day people could apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Nicholas counties.

President Barack Obama's signature on Saturday on the federal disaster declaration lets residents in the three counties get aid for temporary housing and home repairs, receive low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and qualify for other assistance for individuals and business owners.

Federal money to help the state and local governments is also available on a cost-sharing basis. FEMA officials were in the state to begin assessing the damage to infrastructure, homes and other property.

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