“Catastrophic” floods in Tennessee have left at least 21 dead, authorities in the South American state reported on Sunday, and dozens of people remained wanted, according to several local media.
A previous report reported 16 dead.
Tennessee was hit on Saturday by rains described as “historic” by local weather services, resulting in the deadly flooding.
Twenty people have died in the town of Waverly, County of Humphreys, Local Police Chief Grant Gillespie told a press conference. A 21st person has been found dead elsewhere in a rural area, the same source said, according to which the death toll is likely to worsen further.
This county is located about a 1.5 hour drive west of Nashville.
Initially the police had reported about forty missing but now we are talking about twenty, including several children.
“Between 22 and 43 centimeters of rain fell over this area of central Tennessee during a period of 6 hours Saturday morning,” and bad weather continued into the night, added the Emergency Management Agency of the ‘State, calling the floods “catastrophic”.
Local officials from Waverly linked the weather to a hurricane or even a tornado and said the waters rose so quickly that people did not have time to take shelter.
Three other counties were also affected. Clean-up operations are underway, and “many bridges and roads in the affected area remain closed,” the statement said.
The governor of Tennessee visited the site on Sunday afternoon, the agency said.
“It was almost as fast as a tornado. Someone described it as a tidal wave,” the mayor of Waverly told local television station WKRN.
Images showed overturned cars and mud-strewn streets.
At a press conference on Sunday, US President Joe Biden expressed “his deep condolences” and indicated that the government stood “ready to offer assistance”.
“Our prayers are with all residents of Tennessee affected by yesterday’s historic flooding,” tweeted State House of Representatives Mark Green on Sunday morning.