State agency updates West Virginia flooding death toll to 23

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – The Latest on flooding that has devastated parts of West Virginia (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says 23 deaths have been confirmed in flooding in the state.

Division Director Jimmy Gianato updated the death toll in a news release late Friday.

The statement says the agency will give an update on rescue and response efforts Saturday morning.

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7 p.m.

A historic West Virginia resort located in one of the hardest-hit areas of flooding has closed to guests until further notice.

The 710-room Greenbrier resort sustained damage from the flooding and was using backup generators Friday, according to a post on its Facebook page.

The resort in White Sulphur Springs is in Greenbrier County, where multiple deaths from Thursday’s storms and flooding have occurred. The resort posted photos of its golf course covered in floodwaters.

The online post says the resort, which is owned by billionaire Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Justice, is asking guests with plans to stay over the weekend to reschedule.

Justice said in the posting that the resort would reopen as quickly as possible.

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5:50 p.m.

The death toll from floodwaters that ravaged West Virginia has climbed to 20 and officials worry more will be found as they begin to clear the rubble.

The tiny town of Rainelle in Greenbrier County in the southeastern part of the state took the brunt of the devastation. The state Division of Homeland Security reported 15 people killed in Greenbrier County and rescue efforts continue.

Three were killed in Kanawha County. Two young boys also died, one in Ohio County and another in Jackson County.

Hundreds more were left homeless and thousands without power.

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5:10 p.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending teams to West Virginia in response to flooding there.

FEMA said in a news release Friday the teams will participate in joint preliminary damage assessments with the state and local officials and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The assessments will include Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Webster and other counties.

FEMA said the information will be compiled and reviewed by the state, which may decide that a request for federal assistance is warranted.

More than 100 homes were destroyed, thousands are without power and 18 people have died in the storm.

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4:15 p.m.

The death toll from the floods that ravaged West Virginia has risen to 18, and officials fear the number will continue to climb.

Chris Stadelman, chief of staff for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said 14 deaths have been confirmed by the state medical examiner. But local sheriffs and rescue workers across the state confirmed others not yet included in the state’s official tally.

Greenbrier County was one of the hardest hit areas. Sheriff Jan Cahill said at least 13 were killed there.

Three were killed in Kanawha County and one each in Ohio and Jackson counties.

Stadelman said at least 100 homes were destroyed.

John Manchester, mayor of the hard-hit town of Lewisburg in Greenbrier County, said a stretch of highway was completely washed away. Houses were thrown from their foundations and the rubble lines creek beds all over the county.

Rescue crews are braving thick mud and oppressive humidity to search for those still unaccounted for.

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4:10 p.m.

A White Sulphur Springs man says his wife called him during the sudden deluge in West Virginia and said their house was filling up with water.

Ronnie Scott told The Associated Press on Friday that his wife, Belinda Scott, fled to the attic. She smelled natural gas and the house blew up. He says she managed to escape through a vent and clung to a tree for more than four hours before she was rescued by state police.

He says she is currently in the hospital with burns on 67 percent of her body.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says a deluge of 9 inches of rain damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes, knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses and killed 14 people.

About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their car as waters quickly rose during the storm.

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3 p.m.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says early reports indicates more than 100 homes have been seriously damaged or destroyed and about 66,000 homes and businesses are still without power after a storm dropped 9 inches of rain on parts of the state.

Tomblin gave an update on the flooding during a news conference Friday. He said 17 shelters were open and 200 National Guard soldiers are actively helping in eight counties with swift water rescues, search and extraction efforts and health and welfare checks.

The governor has declared a state of emergency in 44 of 54 counties and authorized up to 500 soldiers to assist.

The governor says he had planned to fly around the hart-hit areas, but wasn’t able to because all state aircraft used for rescues.

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2:40 p.m.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says 14 people have died during devastating flooding in the state.

Tomblin made the announcement Friday during a news conference. He says the damage is widespread and devastating. The governor says search and rescue missions are still a top priority.

A storm system dumped 9 inches of rain on parts of West Virginia and trapped 500 people in a shopping center when a bridge washed out. Dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued as waters quickly rose during the deluge.

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1:05 p.m.

Authorities say the bodies of two people have been recovered in the flooding in West Virginia, and they predict the death toll will rise.

Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill said the bodies of two males were found amid debris near White Sulphur Springs on Friday, bringing the death toll from the floods to seven. The latest victims haven’t yet been identified.

The sheriff is describing “complete chaos” from the flooding. He says roads are destroyed, bridges out, homes have burned down and washed off foundations. He says multiple sections of highway are missing and water rescue teams are searching devastated areas.

He says it’s really hard to navigate around because there’s a ton of debris, and even rescuers have had to be rescued.

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12:45 p.m.

The body of a 4-year-old boy who slipped into a rushing creek during a flood that devastated West Virginia was found Friday morning, raising the flood’s death toll to five.

Bob Bibbee with the Ravenswood Fire Department confirmed the boy was found dead at 11:30 a.m. about a quarter mile from where he fell.

Bibbee said the toddler was outside with his grandfather when he fell into the creek, which usually runs about an ankle deep. Jackson County was pounded with 9 inches of rain in 16 hours and the creek rose to about 6 feet.

The grandfather jumped in after the boy to try to pull him out but the water was rushing too quickly. Neighbors, alerted by the sound of the family’s screams, tried to help save the boy but were also unable to reach him.

Dozens of rescuers from four counties searched until dusk Thursday night and resumed Friday morning.

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12:30 p.m.

A man who was one of about 500 people stranded overnight at a shopping mall in West Virginia due to devastating floodwaters says that rescuers used a rope to help him and others down a steep slope behind the center.

Eric Blackshire, who is 48, said Friday that he decided to get a hotel room at the mall on Thursday because a rock slide had blocked his way home to Walton. Then the bridge to the mall washed out during heavy rainfall, stranding people there overnight.

Blackshire described the mood Thursday night as “kind of like a hurricane party,” with lots of beer being drunk.

He said he didn’t know what he was going to do for transportation since his only vehicle was stuck at the shopping center.

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11:45 a.m.

A church pastor says an 8-year-old boy who fell into Big Wheeling Creek during the West Virginia floods was near the water because he wanted to catch crawdads.

Harry Croft, pastor at Marwin Church of the Nazarene at Wheeling, said the boy’s mother told him that she was walking with her son Emanual Williams and daughter when one of the children slipped. The mother grabbed her children but she lost her grip on the boy, known as “Manny.”

Croft says the boy’s body was found about a half-mile from where the family lives. Croft said his congregation was devastated.

The boy’s death was among at least four deaths during the epic flooding in West Virginia. Dozens of people had to be rescued when up to 9 inches of rain fell on parts of the state.

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10 a.m.

Kanawha County Sheriff’s Sgt. B.D. Humphreys says rescue crews have begun evacuating an estimated 500 people who were trapped by high water in a shopping center.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s spokesman, Chris Stadelman, said the people were trapped at the Crossings Mall in Elkview after a culvert bridge washed out.

At least four people are confirmed dead after storms with heavy rain rolled into West Virginia early Thursday and continued throughout the day, leaving thousands without power and several roads impassable from high water.

Stadelman said Friday morning that some areas were “devastated” by what appears to be the worst flooding in a century.

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9:15 a.m.

A West Virginia official says there are four confirmed fatalities from flooding that has devastated parts of the state.

Chris Stadelman, who is Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s communications director, said Friday morning that three people died in Kanawha County and a fourth died in Wheeling. He didn’t have details and said the numbers don’t include a young boy who crews have been looking for after he was swept away by swift water Thursday in Jackson County.

Storms with heavy rain rolled into West Virginia early Thursday and continued throughout the day leaving thousands without power and several roads impassable from high water.

Stadelman said Friday morning that some areas were “devastated.” He said the hardest hit counties included Greenbrier, Nicholas, Fayette, Kanawha and Webster.

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8 a.m.

A West Virginia official says multiple fatalities have been reported in flooding that has devastated parts of the state.

Chris Stadelman, who’s Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s communications director, says some areas are “probably looking at flooding that’s going to be the worst in 100 years.”

At least two fatalities related were reported after storms rolled into West Virginia early Thursday and continued throughout the day leaving thousands without power and several roads impassable.

The fatalities included at least one child and one adult. Wheeling police told The Intelligencer that an 8-year-old boy died after he was swept away by swift water. Brooke Hylbert, Kanawha Metro 911 agency coordinator, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that a man drowned in Clendenin, but she didn’t have details.

Stadelman said Friday morning that some areas were “devastated.” He said the hardest hit counties included Greenbrier, Nicholas, Fayette, Kanawha and Webster.

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