Toddler missing, swept away by floodwaters in West Virginia

Posted at 7:56 PM, Jun 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-23 21:56:14-04

By Amy La Porte

(CNN) — A toddler is missing, after being swept away by raging floodwaters in West Virginia, where a state of emergency has just been declared in 44 counties.

The boy was playing with his sister behind a home in Ravenwood, when he slipped and fell into what is typically a small stream, but after unrelenting rainfall, had swollen to a rushing torrent, according to Walter Smittle, director of 911 and emergency management for Jackson County.

Three fire departments joined EMS and law-enforcement crews in the search for the boy, but soon after, a new band of threatening thunderstorms and high winds rolled in.

Smittle told CNN that crews were called back to the shore, and the search was halted, after two hours of scouring the water for any sign of the missing boy.

As trees and power lines fell, and floodwaters surged, many stranded residents had to be evacuated by rescue crews, including a nursing home in Richwood.

The West Virginia Red Cross was forced to open a shelter at a church to take in the 90 displaced nursing home residents, according to a statement from the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Amy Vail of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, told CNN she has never seen flooding like this before.

“It’s just awful, everyone in town is devastated,” she said.

As the heavy rainfall continued Thursday, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for 44 counties including Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Grant, Hardy, Mineral, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties.

Parts of these counties “have been rendered inaccessible because of public infrastructure damage,” Tomblin said.

The declaration of a state of emergency gives listed counties access to state resources for response efforts.

In his emergency proclamation, Tomblin said some areas had been rendered inaccessible as rock and mud slides, along with rushing floodwaters, knocked out roads and bridges.

Appalachian Power and FirstEnergy are reporting over 35,000 customers are currently without power between the two companies, according to their official websites.