As many as 18 search-and-rescue teams, including swift-water rescue crews, were dispatched to the area in and around Whitewood, Virginia, early in the day, Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Eric Breeding told reporters.
Well over 100 houses in the area have been damaged, and many roads and bridges had been washed out by mudslides and high water, a Virginia state emergency management official told the same news briefing, carried by local television station WCYB, based in Bristol, Virginia.
Breeding said there were no confirmed fatalities or serious injuries so far, and that the 44 people listed as unaccounted reflected the number of individuals whose loved ones have reported their whereabouts as unknown after floods struck.
They were not considered “missing” as yet, since many were likely to have been merely left unreachable because of telephone and electricity service disruptions in the region.
Still, Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency in southwestern Virginia in order to hasten disaster assistance to the flood-stricken area.
The downpours blamed for the flooding were part of a larger storm system that struck the mid-Atlantic region Tuesday night and early Wednesday, with showers continuing into the morning hours.
“Heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in Buchanan County, along with power outages, impacts to roads and other infrastructure and significant resource and operational challenges,” Youngkin said in his declaration.
Whitewood, an unincorporated Appalachian community of about 500 people, is located along the Dismal River in Buchanan County near the border of both West Virginia and Kentucky.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Michael Perry)