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West Virginia floods: At least 20 dead in 'once-in-1,000-year' event

Major destruction was reported across the state, including the sight of a burning house floating down a creek in southern West Virginia.

By Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware
Video: West Virginia Public Broadcasting/YouTube

RAVENSWOOD, W.Va., June 24 (UPI) -- The death toll from massive flooding in West Virginia continued to rise Friday.

Officials said Friday evening that at least 20 people were confirmed dead after torrential rains fell on the state and triggered widespread flash flooding.

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Among the victims, officials said are a 4-year-old and 8-year-old boy.

The body of the 4-year-old, Edward McMillion, was found earlier Friday hours after he went missing near Ravenswood, a small town on the banks of the Ohio River.

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The search for Edward, which involved state and local police and emergency crews from nearby communities, was suspended late Thursday due to severe lightning and hail but resumed early Friday.

The 8-year-old boy was killed in Ohio County, officials said.

Between 8 and 10 inches of rain fell in just a few hours. A forecaster with the National Weather Service said such substantial rainfall in that short a period is a "one-in-a-thousand-year event."

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The flooding is the third-deadliest in West Virginia's history -- following similar events in 1972 and 1985.

"I am saddened to report that, at this point, we have confirmed 14 individuals who have lost their lives in the storm," West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin said at a news conference Friday.

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"As West Virginians we are all praying for those who have lost loved ones," he added.

Tomblin, who's declared emergencies in 44 of the state's 55 counties, said he planned to survey the flooding from the air Friday but could not because every available aircraft was being used for rescue and relief efforts.

Up to 10 inches of rain fell in some counties, leading to significant flash flooding. Thousands also remain without power across the state, utility officials said.

A dramatic scene played out Friday in the southern part of the state when floodwaters pushed a burning house down the Howard Creek.

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