Flash flood leaves 9 dead in Ari­zona

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

TONTO NA­TIONAL FOR­EST, Ari­zona — 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 on Satur­day for a day trip along a pop­u­lar swim­ming hole near Payson, about 160 kilo­me­ters 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 90-cen­time­ter-high flood­wa­ters, dark with ash from a wild­fire, onto the un­sus­pect­ing fam­ily and friends. The tor­rent car­ried away tree branches and other de­bris and left nine peo­ple dead.

Searchers, in­clud­ing 40 peo­ple on foot and oth­ers in a he­li­copter, re­cov­ered the bod­ies of five chil­dren and four adults. Au­thor­i­ties did not iden­tify them.

A 13-year-old boy from the same group was still miss­ing on Sun­day.

Disa Alexan­der was hik­ing to the swim­ming area where El­li­son Creek and East Verde River con­verge when the wa­ter sud­denly surged.

Video she posted to so­cial me­dia showed tor­rents of wa­ter surg­ing through jagged canyons carved in Ari­zona’s sig­na­ture red rock.

“I could have just died!” Alexan­der ex­claimed on the video.

She spot­ted a man hold­ing a baby and cling­ing to a tree. Nearby, his wife was also in a tree. A boy Alexan­der de­scribed as the cou­ple’s son was on the rocks above the wa­ter.

Had they been swept down­stream, they would have been sent over a 6-me­ter wa­ter­fall, Alexan­der said.

Alexan­der and oth­ers tried to reach them but couldn’t.

For­tu­nately help was close by.

Some res­cuers were al­ready near the swim­ming hole af­ter get­ting a call to help some­one who had suf­fered a bad al­ler­gic re­ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to De­tec­tive Sergeant David Hor­nung of the Gila County Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment.

When they ar­rived at the scene, “they heard some­one scream­ing for help and saw a man cling­ing to a rock”, said Hor­nung, who added that the man was safely res­cued. “Then they heard other peo­ple call­ing for help.”

Four peo­ple were res­cued and taken to the hos­pi­tal for treat­ment of hy­pother­mia.

Some 40 res­cuers in bright orange T-shirts and hel­mets dot­ted the green land­scape as they combed the wa­ters and banks for the miss­ing boy. A few brought along spe­cially trained search dogs hop­ing to find him alive, Hor­nung said.

While Ari­zona is known for its dry­ness, it gets bursts of heavy rains dur­ing the sum­mer mon­soon sea­son. The se­vere thun­der­storm was lo­cated in a re­mote area that had been burned by a re­cent wild­fire. The “burn scar” was one of the rea­sons the weather ser­vice is­sued the flash flood warn­ing.


Women pose for pho­tos dur­ing the Port of Los An­ge­les Lob­ster Fes­ti­val in San Pe­dro, Cal­i­for­nia, on Sun­day.


Res­cuers search along the banks of the East Verde River for vic­tims of a flash flood in Payson, Ari­zona, on Sun­day.

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