Tennessee floods: Twin babies die after being swept out of father's arms

Scenes of devastation are captured in Tennessee following record-breaking rainfall

Two twin babies were swept away from their father's arms by floodwaters which have killed at least 22 people in Tennessee.

Rescue crews are desperately searching shattered homes and debris in the hope of finding the dozens still missing following the floods caused by record-breaking rain in the state.

Rural areas were badly hit as the floods took out roads, phone towers and telephone lines.

Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis confirmed the 22 fatalities took place in his county after water rose quickly throughout the region, while 12 to 15 people remain missing.

The names of the missing - many of whom live in neighbourhoods where the water rose fastest - were listed on a board in the county’s emergency centre and on a city department’s Facebook page. Emergency workers have been searching door-to-door for signs of them.

Business owner Kansas Klein, from Waverly, says there's "nothing salvageable" from his restaurant following the floods

“I would expect, given the number of fatalities, that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts,” Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan said.

The dead include the twin babies, according to family members, and a foreman at county music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch.

GoFundMe pages were created to help raise money for funeral expenses for the dead, including seven-month-old twins yanked from their father’s arms as they tried to escape.

Up to 43cm of rain fell in Humphreys County in fewer than 24 hours on Saturday, shattering the previous Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than 8cm, the National Weather Service said.

The foreman at Lynn’s ranch, Wayne Spears, was also killed.

“He’s out at his barn and next thing you know, he goes from checking animals in the barn to hanging on in the barn to people seeing him floating down the creek. And that’s how fast it had come up,” the sheriff said.

A shopowner reviews the damage. Credit: AP
Cars were left in precarious states. Credit: AP

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited the area, where he described a “devastating picture of loss and heartache.”

Resident Shirley Foster cried as the governor walked up. She said she just learned a friend had died in the floods.

“I thought I was over the shock of all this. I’m just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone,” Foster told the governor.

Some homes were washed off their foundations and people were sifting though their water-logged possessions in the hope of salvaging something.

All around the county cars were washed off the road and left upright, businesses were left in ruins and homes became a tangled mess.

Business owner Kansas Klein, from Waverly, said: "It's a total loss. We had about six feet of water inside the restaurant, all the equipment, everything has been destroyed, flipped over, washed out.

"We've got stuff from other businesses that are actually washed into our place with the windows smashed out. But it's totally destroyed, there's nothing salvageable."

Cars felt the full force of the rain. Credit: AP

A flash flood watch had been issued for the area before the rain started, with forecasters saying 10-15cm of water were possible.

Before Saturday’s deluge, the worst storm recorded in this area of Middle Tennessee had been 23cm, said Nashville weather service meteorologist Krissy Hurley. “Forecasting almost a record is something we don’t do very often,” she said. “Double the amount we’ve ever seen was almost unfathomable.”

President Joe Biden sent his condolences to the people of Tennessee and has directed federal disaster officials to talk with the governor and offer assistance.