Authorities said on Monday a wall of water swept away women and children in two vehicles in a Utah-Arizona border town. As a result an estimated eight people are dead and five others missing in a community that served as a home base for polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.
Hildale assistant fire chief Kevin Barlow said about 5 p.m. three people survived as the flash flooding washed the vehicles several hundred yards downstream. One survivor was found downstream at a bank in town.
However Barlow didn’t have information on the others who were rescued. According to Barlow the rescue effort continued through the night but scaled back due to treacherous conditions in the sister towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.
On Monday night Barlow confirmed seven deaths, while the Utah Division of Emergency Management said in a later Facebook post that an “additional victim has been located below the Central Street crossing bringing the total number of confirmed fatalities to 8. There are still 5 unaccounted for.” The floods were a result of heavy rains that fell in the canyons just north of the towns, sending waves of water through the streets.
Barlow said the women and children were in an SUV and a van on a gravel road north of the towns. They were coming back from a park in the area when the flash flood hit.
The National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning earlier in the day, which lead the nearby Zion National Park to take precaution and close all slot canyons. Barlow said he is unsure if the residents were aware of the warning.
Barlow said the water was “several feet deep, at least, and even more treacherous in the narrow channels.” The flooding also caused other, less serious problems.
Barlow said due to the flooding several blocks of homes are without power and water.
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