Rescue operations are continuing in Colorado, where major flooding has displaced thousands. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for across the western US state as new flash floods threaten more evacuations.
Flooding from five days of unprecedented rainfall in the US state of Colorado has left thousands of people displaced and at least four people dead.
By late Saturday night, more than 1,750 people, and 300 pets, had been evacuated over the last two days, National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Mitch Utterback said.
The rain began on Wednesday, in Boulder, with 7.2 inches (18.3 centimeters) of precipitation in about 15 hours. Over a three day period some areas have had more than 15 inches of rain, which is above average rainfall totals for an entire year, according to the National Weather Service.
"This is a 500-to-1,000-year flood," Sean Conway, a commissioner of rural Weld County, said at a news conference.
The flood zone has grown to cover an area covering almost 4,500 square miles (11,655 square kilometers), which is about the size of the US state of Connecticut.
The Denver Post newspaper reported that the number of people who were unaccounted for had risen to 350 by Saturday afternoon, citing the Boulder Office of Emergency Management. However, they cautioned that those numbers were ever changing because "some people who were unaccounted for have been able to finally make contact with friends or family."
Four people are confirmed dead with a fifth victim missing and feared dead after witnesses saw her mountain home destroyed. Officials have warned that the death toll could rise.
Earlier on Saturday, US President Barack Obama approved federal assistance to release funds to help with emergency protection. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency for 14 counties, authorizing $6 million (4.5 million euros) in funds to pay for flood response and recovery.
"It's got to be the largest storm that I can imagine in the state's history," Hickenlooper said, advising people to stay out of sand-filled floodwaters he called "almost like liquid cement."
The US National Guard joined local emergency crews stretched thin by the scope of the disaster, providing seven helicopters Saturday to help evacuations.
hc/jm (Reuters, AFP)