Image: Residents search along the Short Creek bank after a flash flood in Hildale, Utah, September 15, 2015. REUTERS/David Becker
By Peg McEntee
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for a 6-year-old boy and a hiker missing on Wednesday after flash floods in southern Utah killed at least 18 people in a national park and a small town on the Arizona border.
In a double tragedy for the state, a wall of water and debris swept through Hildale, Utah, on Monday afternoon, sweeping away two cars and killing at least a dozen people, while at about the same time flooding killed six people and left one missing in Zion National Park.
More bad weather and the threat of further floods have hampered rescue operations in the park, county officials said.
Park officials said the group of seven hikers was seen entering the narrow Keyhole Canyon, a challenging route on the east side of the park that requires visitors to swim through several pools of water and rappel down steep slopes.
The search resumed Wednesday with more than 60 park rescue workers, sheriff’s deputies and others checking Zion’s Clear Creek, Pine Creek and Virgin River areas, officials said.
“Once weather conditions improve, they will also search Keyhole Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon,” the park said in a statement, adding that the names of the dead and missing were being withheld until relatives are notified.
In Hildale, about 20 miles (32 km) to the south, hundreds of volunteers from more than 30 agencies, supported by the Utah National Guard, have worked for two days to search for the missing and clear thousands of tons of mud and debris.
The floods hit two vehicles packed with 16 people on Monday. Three boys escaped, officials said, but the rest were washed away. Twelve bodies were recovered on Tuesday, some of them miles downstream in Arizona.
The missing boy was identified on Wednesday as Tyson Lucas Black, 6, and officials said crews, some using sniffer dogs, were going back over the entire flood area, which extends for nearly seven miles (11 km) along the banks of Short Creek.
Hildale, home to fewer than 3,000 people, is twinned with Colorado City, across the border in Arizona.
Both cities are home to the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That sect is not affiliated with the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy in 1890.
(Reporting by Peg McEntee; Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Eric Beech)
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