Death Toll Rises to 24 in 'Catastrophic' Midwest Floods
As the Mississippi River continues to flood towns throughout Illinois and Missouri, the death roll has risen to 24.
With 10 inches of rain over a three-day period that began last weekend, “the healing process, the restoration process has begun,” Chris Greenhagen, pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Eureka, Missouri, told the Associated Press.
Among the dead are five international soldiers who were on holiday leave during a temporary assignment at Fort Leonard Wood, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
They drowned when their car went off a dark, rural highway in southwest Missouri.
“It’s just a very dark and rural highway, and I’m sure they had no idea of what was ahead of them until they got into the water,” Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long told the newspaper. “Most of the time, these roads are traveled by people who know what lies ahead. They don’t venture off into the water.”
On Saturday, President Obama signed a federal emergency declaration for Missouri that allows federal aid to be used to help state and local response efforts.
That same day, rescuers were still searching for four people missing in Missouri and Illinois and one man in Oklahoma, PBS Newshour reports.
“All that water’s coming south and we have to be ready for it,” Louisiana Lieutenant Governor-Elect Billy Nungesser told reporters. “It’s a serious concern. It’s early in the season. We usually don’t see this until much later.”
In Missouri, Noelle Pace told The Associated Press that she packed electronics, some furniture, her 4-year-old son’s clothing and toys and left on Dec. 28.
With the only damage to her home in the crawl space, she calls herself lucky.
“Everybody around us had catastrophic damage,” says Pace, who might not be able to move back for weeks.
She adds: “It doesn’t feel real yet.”