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Tennessee flooding leaves 21 people dead and around 20 others missing

August 23, 2021

At least 21 people in the US are confirmed dead while about 20 others remain missing,  after severe flooding that swept through Humphreys County in Middle Tennessee, local officials said.

“We’ve experienced devastating loss of life over the last couple days,” Grant Gillespie, the police and fire chief of Waverly, Tennessee, said in a news conference Sunday evening.

Twenty of those killed in the flooding Saturday were confirmed dead within the city of Waverly, the county seat, a news release from the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency said. One other was confirmed dead elsewhere in the county.

Local officials revised the number of missing down from an earlier count of 45. Gillespie explained the figure was high because the storm had knocked out cell service, making it difficult for people to reach their loved ones.

In a separate news conference in Nashville, Gov. Bill Lee described a “tremendous loss of life” in Waverly, with “homes washed off their foundations, cars strewn around the community.”

“It is a devastating picture of loss and heartache,” he said.

The director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said his agency had confirmed 16 fatalities but acknowledged the discrepancy with local authorities, saying it was due to the state’s validation process.

“You might see a discrepancy in numbers sometimes, what’s coming from the sheriff or what’s coming from our official reports, and it’s really just a matter of process,” Director Patrick Sheehan said. “What we know is there are a number of people still missing.”

The flooding damaged infrastructure, schools, homes and other facilities in Waverly, Gillespie said, adding he believed federal assistance would be needed for the community to recover.

The community needs “patience and prayers,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told reporters, asking people to stay out of the area while authorities continue search and rescue operations.

A reunification center has been opened at McEwen High School, where community members can report missing people, the sheriff’s office said. In the meantime, three shelters have been set up in Waverly, at the Waverly Church of Christ, First Baptist Church and Compassion Church, Humphreys County officials said.

An 8 p.m. curfew will remain in place Sunday evening, the statement said.

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