Death toll in West Virginia floods climbs to 24; federal aid approved

In this photo released by the The Weather Channel, a vehicle rests on the roof after flooding near White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, June 24, 2016. Multiple fatalities have been reported in flooding that has devastated parts of the state, a state official said Friday morning. The fatalities included at least one child and one adult. Justin Michaels/The Weather Channel via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT.

State officials have confirmed the death toll in West Virginia's devastating floods has climbed to 24.

State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato said the 24th confirmed fatality occurred in Greenbrier County, making it the 16th confirmed fatality in the county.

Senator Joe Manchin announced on his Facebook page that President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster for the Mountain State and has ordered federal aid to help deal with the crisis.

Earlier Saturday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced he was asking the federal government to make the move so FEMA could provide individual assistance for Kanawha, Nicholas and Greenbrier counties. Just a few hours later, the president and Tomblin spoke on the phone. he then signed the declaration, releasing federal funds to the affected counties.

The help can come in the form of grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and also low cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

CHARLESTON, WV (WCHS/WVAH) -- West Virginia's death toll from the devastating floods now stands at 24.

The breakdown on the fatalities is 16 in Greenbrier County, six in Kanawha County, one in Jackson County and one in Ohio County, said a spokesman with the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held a news conference Friday to talk about the floods and emergency officials' efforts in the aftermath of the disaster that dumped as much as 9 inches of rain in some areas of the Mountain State.

"It's been a long 24 hours, and the next 24 hours may not be any easier," Tomblin said.

Flanked by his cabinet secretaries and Major Gen. James Hoyer, the state's adjutant general, Tomblin gave an update on the flooding that has devastated the Mountain State and prompted him to declare a state of emergency in 44 counties.

The governor said the emergency declaration allowed the state to have "boots on the ground," and there already are 200 National Guard members helping in the aftermath of the devastating floods. He said the disaster declaration will allow the state to have up to 500 National Guard members activated.

Tomblin said 66,000 West Virginians are without power, and gas was shut off in the town of White Sulphur Springs. The governor said there are 60 roads that are closed. He also said that a gravel road is being constructed on the back part of the Elkview Crossings Mall to assist in the rescue of 500 people who were stranded there.

Currently, there are 17 shelters open in the state to provide help for residents who need it. A number of groups also are raising money to assist with flood relief efforts. Tomblin said residents who need assistance should reach out to their local emergency operation center in their counties and should call 911 in emergency situations.

The governor cited the heroic efforts of emergency personnel, mentioning an incident in Richwood when a woman who had water up to her neck was rescued and residents who have been plucked off of rooftops by those assisting in the rescue effort.

Tomblin asked West Virginia residents to continue to join together to help the state bounce back from the tragedy.

"Please continue to work together and support each other as West Virginians always do," he said.