By IVAN MORENO
2013-09-24 09:22 AM
DENVER (AP) -- A 79-year-old woman whose house was swept away by the Big Thompson River was found dead on the river bank, authorities said Monday, bringing to eight the death toll from the massive flooding in Colorado.
As the number of people unaccounted-for dwindled to six, Vice President Joe Biden viewed the devastation from a helicopter before meeting with disaster workers.
"I promise you, I promise you, there will be help," Biden said, trying to mute concerns that a possible federal government shutdown could derail relief efforts.
The latest victim was identified as Evelyn M. Starner. Larimer County authorities said she drowned and suffered blunt force trauma. Starner was previously listed as missing and presumed dead.
Starner was found Saturday. One other person was still missing and presumed dead -- a 60-year-old woman from Larimer County. A man was taken off the list after walking into the sheriff's office.
The number of unaccounted for people shrank as improving communications and road access allowed authorities to contact 54 people over the weekend who had not been heard from.
The floods caused damage across 17 counties and nearly 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers). Nearly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed along with more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) of state highways and 50 state bridges.
The floods are also blamed for spills of about 27,000 gallons (102,200 liters) of oil in northern Colorado oilfields, including two mishaps found over the weekend, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said.
The commission said it's tracking eight notable leaks, 10 other locations with some evidence of leaks, and 33 places where oilfield equipment appears damaged but no evidence of spills has been spotted. About 1,300 gas and oil wells remain shut down.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had approved $19.6 million in individual assistance, most of it to help people find temporarily rentals or make house repairs. More than 15,600 people have applied for FEMA relief.
With talk of a government shutdown emanating from Washington, FEMA insisted its aid will continue uninterrupted whether there is a budget impasse or not.
Associated Press writers Dan Elliott and Steven K. Paulson contributed to this report.
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