Torrential rain hinders search in Colorado floods
By Jeanie Stokes, AFPDENVER--Torrential rain grounded rescue helicopters in Colorado for much of Sunday, slowing the search for hundreds of people unaccounted for after massive flooding in the western U.S. state killed six.
September 17, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Over 1,500 homes have been destroyed and more than 17,000 damaged after days of flooding, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management said, while at least five people have died, and the death toll is likely to rise.
President Barack Obama has declared the flooding a major disaster, unblocking federal resources to help a vast operation which has seen more than 11,000 residents evacuated, as roads and bridges have been swept away.
The number of people unaccounted was put as high as 1,253 by the state emergency management office, although Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper put it at 500.
Many of the missing may simply be unable to report their whereabouts, but Hickenlooper warned that the death toll may increase. “There are many, many homes that have been destroyed.
“A number have been collapsed, and we haven't been in them yet,” he told CNN.
“Finding the people who are unaccounted for is one of the highest priorities,” said Boulder Sheriff Joe Pelle, in an afternoon update posted by Boulder Office of Emergency Management.
Flash floods have afflicted 15 counties down a 200-mile north-south section of the Front Range, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management said.
“We've got a heck of a lot of communities dealing with a heck of a lot of water,” Jennifer Finch, a spokeswoman for Weld County northeast of Boulder, told Denver Channel 7 News.
Rain began pelting the western state earlier in the week, with Boulder especially hard hit, seeing 7.2 inches (18.3 centimeters) of precipitation in about 15 hours starting Wednesday night.