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Flash flooding kills nine in Arizona
July 18, 2017
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PHOENIX: At least nine people drowned while swimming in an Arizona river when they became overwhelmed by flash flooding following heavy rains in the drought-stricken region, officials said on Sunday.

Authorities were searching for at least one other missing person after the incident on Saturday afternoon in the Verde River near Payson, about 145 km northeast of Phoenix, Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief Ron Sattelmaier said.

Local media reported at least two children were among the dead. The Gila County Sheriff’s Office did not give details of the deceased or those missing.

A search-and-rescue operation was under way involving sheriff’s deputies and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger Helicopter, as well as members of the local Whispering Pines Fire Department and US Forest Service, Sheriff Adam Shepherd said in a statement.

There was also concern over possible flash flooding in southern Arizona, as well.

Adults, teens and children as young as 2 were enjoying a summer afternoon by cooling off in an Arizona creek when the gentle waters turned deadly.

The group from the Phoenix and Flagstaff areas had met Saturday for a day trip along a popular swimming hole near Payson, about 160.9 kilometres northeast of the capital. They set up lounge chairs not knowing an intense thunderstorm was dumping heavy rainfall just upstream in the Tonto National Forest.

The storm unleashed 6-foot-high floodwaters, dark with ash from a summer wildfire, onto the unsuspecting family and friends. The torrent carried away tree branches and other debris and left a wake of nine bodies.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix said that most of Arizona was under flash flood watch until Monday evening, warning that “heavy rains can produce flash flooding of low lying, normally dry areas such as washes.”

Strong storm systems in Phoenix have caused major power outages, flooded part of a major highway and prompted air traffic controllers to divert some flights.

The Arizona Republic reports that nearly 6,000 households lost power Saturday night in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. It wasn’t immediately clear when power would be restored.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says flooding briefly closed a section of eastbound Interstate 10.

Agencies

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