Twin babies swept from father’s arms among 22 people killed in Tennessee floods as dozens missing

Twin babies were among at least 22 people killed as record-breaking rainfall caused devastating flooding in Tennessee.

Dozens of people are still missing after floodwater caused severe damage to homes, buildings, roads and power cables as it rushed through the southeastern part of the US state on Saturday.

The two seven-month-old babies were said to have been swept out of their father’s arms in Waverly on Saturday morning when water surged into their apartment complex as they tried to escape.

The death of the twins, Ryan and Rileigh Rigney, was confirmed by surviving family members.

And the siblings’ bodies have been found, Sheriff Chris Davis told NBC affiliate WSMV.

Wayne Spears, a foreman at 89-year-old country music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch about 11 miles south of Waverly, also died in the flooding.

“Wayne has been a family friend to the Lynns and a fixture to the Ranch for decades and we are all devastated by his passing,” the ranch said.

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Cars and entire houses were swept down a road in Waverly, which is about 60 miles west of Nashville. The town of McEwen was also badly hit by the conditions.

The National Weather Service said up to 17in (1.4ft) of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours on Saturday, shattering the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than 3in (0.25ft).

Officials said emergency workers were searching door to door with their hopes of finding more survivors beginning to fade.

A car is among debris that washed up against a bridge over a stream in Waverly
Image:A car is among debris that washed up against a bridge over a stream in Waverly. Pic: AP

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Several dead in ‘catastrophic’ Tennessee flooding

“I would expect, given the number of fatalities, that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts,” said Tennessee emergency management director Patrick Sheehan.

Many of the missing live in the neighbourhoods where the water rose the fastest, said Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis, who confirmed the 22 deaths in his county.

Tennessee governor Bill Lee toured the area, calling it a “devastating picture of loss and heartache”.

People in Waverly in mid-Tennessee assess the damage after the heavy rainfall caused devastating floods. Pic: AP
Image:People in Waverly in mid-Tennessee assess the damage after the heavy rainfall caused devastating floods. Pic: AP
Some of the damage to property caused by Saturday's flooding in McEwen, Tennessee. Pic: AP
Image:Some of the damage to property caused by Saturday’s flooding in McEwen, Tennessee. Pic: AP

President Joe Biden offered condolences to the people of Tennessee and directed federal disaster officials to talk to the governor and to offer assistance.

A flash flood watch was issued for the area before the rain started, with forecasters saying up to 6in (0.5ft) of rain was possible.

Our hearts are with the many Tennesseans experiencing loss & heartbreak following yesterday’s deadly floods. The loss of life & property damage is devastating, & many of our neighbors are still missing. Please keep these communities in your prayers. pic.twitter.com/4gCJXXsIZK

— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) August 22, 2021

The worst storm previously recorded in this area of Tennessee recorded 9in (0.75ft) of rain, said Krissy Hurley, a weather service meteorologist in Nashville.

She said: “Forecasting almost a record is something we don’t do very often.

“Double the amount we’ve ever seen was almost unfathomable.”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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