Death Toll in Colorado Flood Increases

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 14 2013 3:41 PM

Death Toll in Colorado Flood Increases as Rescue Efforts Accelerate

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The waters of Boulder Creek rushes downstream

Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

UPDATE, 15 September at 1:30 p.m.: The death toll from the Colorado floods likely increased to six Sunday as another person—this time, an 80-year-old woman—was missing and presumed dead. Officials say some 500 people remain unaccounted for, and nearly 2,000 have been evacuated, from two flooded counties. But they emphasized that the vast majority of those who are still unaccounted for likely don't have phone service, reports Reuters.

Original post: A 60-year-old woman likely became the fifth fatality from the 100-year flooding that has slammed much of eastern Colorado. The number of people unaccounted for has declined to 172, after peaking at 218, reports CNN. Officials were sure to clarify that doesn’t mean they’re missing, just that they haven’t been heard from. "We're assuming some of them have been stranded, we're assuming that some made their way out and simply haven't contact us or friends and family to get off the list, we're assuming that there may be further loss of life or injuries," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said. Although that number is expected to drop as rescue efforts continue, the death toll will almost certainly increase. "Given the destruction, there is a high probability" of more fatalities, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said, according to Reuters.

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Rescue efforts accelerated Saturday as more rains were expected to hit areas that are already experiencing the worst flooding in decades. Helicopters and National Guard troops scoured the affected areas for survivors as food and water in remote areas affected by the floods that began Wednesday are thought to be running low, notes the Associated Press. By Saturday morning, nearly 800 people had been evacuated with the help of around 15 helicopters, according to the Denver Post. Those reluctant to evacuate were warned it could be weeks before their lives returned to normal as the worst-hit areas will likely be without power or running water for weeks. "Essentially, what they were threatening us with is, ‘If you stay here, you may be here for a month,’” said a 79-year-old evacuee.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.