Twenty-three people were killed after being swept away in devastating flash floods resulting from historic rain in parts of West Virginia on Thursday night.
Early afternoon, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced 14 deaths at a news conference but a few hours later the death toll rose to 20, according to Tim Rock of the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
NBC News later reported that 23 people died.
Among those killed was a preschooler whose body was recovered from a stream Friday morning after he was swept away Thursday while playing in his backyard.
The boy, identified as 4-year-old Edward McMillion, was under the watch of his grandfather who tried to save the boy but was unable to pull him from the current, according to the Washington Post
“He saw him; he chased him,” Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs told the newspaper. “He got close to him – and he may have even grabbed him. But he couldn t get him out.”
Authorities searched for the boy on Thursday afternoon, but had to suspend their search when another storm hit.
Early Friday morning, 85 first responders came together to pray and begin a new search. Their efforts ended in tragedy when the young boy from Ravenswood’s body was found about a mile from where he was last seen.
A state of emergency was declared in 44 of the state’s 55 counties and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the flooding was “among the worst in a century for some parts of the state.” Tomblin said that search and rescue efforts remained a priority as 200 National Guard members had been deployed to help people trapped in flooded homes and cars.
Another young boy, 8-year-old Emanual Williams, was found unresponsive on Thursday, hours after falling into a creek while walking with his mother and sister along its bank, authorities told WOTV.
The boy’s mother tried to save him as he fell into the rushing water that was 20-feet deep. The child was later rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Others remain unaccounted for and the death toll is expected to rise. At least 500 people were stranded in a shopping mall overnight after a bridge connecting the mall to a main road collapsed and washed away, officials told ABC News.
Some people chose to remain at the mall even after first responders came to rescue them today because their homes had flooded. At least 100 homes have been destroyed in the floods.