West Virginia’s worst flooding in a century has killed at least 26 people, and the three most devastated counties will receive federal disaster aid and other counties may as well, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said on Saturday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted a major disaster declaration for individual assistance such as medical help and housing in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, Tomblin said.
West Virginia’s death toll from flooding is the highest for any U.S. state this year, with 15 deaths reported in Greenbrier County in southeast West Virginia, where the heaviest rain fell, and six in Kanahwa County, officials said.
The scope of damage in those three counties allowed him to make the request immediately, he said in a statement.
FEMA and state officials were assessing damage in at least six other counties and the state may submit additional requests for assistance, Tomblin said.
The death toll in West Virginia is the highest in any state from flooding this year. At least 16 people, including nine U.S. soldiers, were killed in flooding in Texas earlier in June.
Up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) of rain fell on Thursday in the mountainous state, sending torrents of water from rivers and streams through homes causing widespread devastation.
Tomblin has declared a state of emergency in 44 of 55 counties and deployed 200 members of the West Virginia National Guard on Friday to help rescue efforts. About 32,000 homes and businesses remained without power on Saturday.
Hundreds of people have been rescued and search and rescue teams were looking for more people on Saturday, said Tim Rock, spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
“There are going to be a lot of rebuilding, a lot of people without homes, a lot of businesses destroyed,” Rock said.
Some towns were completely surrounded by water and hundreds of houses and buildings have been lost, Rock said.
The Greenbrier resort was closed indefinitely and PGA Tour and Greenbrier officials said Saturday they had canceled the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament set to begin July 7 because extensive flooding damage could not be repaired in time.
West Virginia received one-quarter of its annual rainfall in a single day and multiple rivers surged to dangerous levels, including the Elk River, which broke a record at one stage that had stood since 1888.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by David Gregorio)