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Floods kill at least 16 in polygamous town, national park

Floods kill at least 12 in Utah polygamous town; at least 4 more die at Zion National Park

Floods kill at least 16 in polygamous town, national park

HILDALE, Utah (AP) -- Authorities on Wednesday were searching for four people still missing after flash flooding killed 12 in a small polygamous town on the Utah-Arizona border.

Rescuers on Tuesday found the bodies of several children who died when their two vehicles were swept away in a torrent of floodwaters that killed at least 12 people. The same flash floods claimed at least four lives in nearby Zion National Park.

The van and sports utility vehicle were filled with three women and 13 children when a wall of brown water overtook them Monday evening, carrying the vehicles several hundred yards (meters) downstream and sending them plunging down a flooded-out embankment with terrifying force. The SUV was smashed beyond recognition. Three people survived, all of them children, in the secluded community that is the home base of Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect.

Only one person was still missing Tuesday in the border town, and authorities had not identified the dead. The children in the vehicles ranged from 4 years old to teenagers.

At nearby Zion National Park, authorities found four bodies and searched for three missing hikers who set out Monday to rappel down a narrow slot canyon. They left before park officials closed the canyons that evening because of flood warnings, park spokeswoman Holly Baker said. The hikers, from California and Nevada, were all in their 40s and 50s, Baker said. She had no details on their identities.

The raging torrents are not uncommon in an area prone to flash floods, but the volume and pace of Monday's rain was a "100-year event," said Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

The height of the storm lasted about 30 minutes, pouring 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) of rain into a desert-like landscape with little vegetation and many steep slopes.

Officials say some of the bodies were recovered in Arizona several miles downstream.


Associated Press reporters P. Solomon Banda in Hildale; Lindsay Whitehurst and Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City; Sally Ho in Las Vegas and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this story. McCombs reported from Salt Lake City.

Updated : 2021-09-24 04:52 GMT+08:00