There are still five people missing after deadly flash floods hit Utah late Monday evening. As reported on CNN, the Hildale Fire Department announced that eight have been found dead, as well. All of the victims are mothers and small children, the youngest of which was just 4-years-old. Six of the deceased were found nearly two-and-a-half miles downstream, evidencing the torrential force of the surging water.
The flash floods began with heavy rains on Monday evening in the canyons just above Hildale, a very small town on the border of Utah and Arizona. The intense rains quickly caused the river to swell, sending massive amounts of water down into the town.
The force of the water was so strong that it washed away two vehicles, each carrying people, most of which were thrown from their vehicles in a torrent of water.
“It happened within like a half-hour, 45 minutes,” reported Chris Wyler, a witness to the rain and hail that poured down the streets Monday night. “(Then) it was just gone. And then the sun was shining again.”
Though there are still five confirmed missing people, several were rescued from the mud and debris caused by the water. Rescue workers are still working tirelessly to put the town to rights again, and search teams are scouring the area in search of the missing family members and friends.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert made a statement early this morning, stating that Utah would be offering “full resources to the town of Hildale to aid with the search and rescue effort.” He also reported that he was “heartbroken to hear of the recent tragedy in Washington County.”
Most of the citizens are members of the Warren Jeffs polygamist sect, also known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). Video footage from news anchors shows a family being pulled to safety from a vehicle before it could be swept away into the raging water.
The swells of water took the citizens of Hildale by complete surprise, and they felt helpless to watch vehicles and debris float away down the road-turned-river. The National Weather Service did issue a flash flood warning just before the floods came about, giving the residents plenty of time to act quickly and get out of harm’s way. However, the citizens likely didn’t expect the damage to be this great.
“We’re pretty used to flash flooding,” reported Kevin Barlow, assistant fire chief in Hildale. “But this is significantly more than what we’re used to.”
The flash floods in Utah may not be over yet, according to officials. There is still a flash flood advisory warning in effect for Utah’s southern point, as well as the surrounding areas.
[Image via George Frey / Getty Images]