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Bodies recovered as US faces worsening floods and fires

Four children are among the victims of the Kentucky flood. Photo: Getty
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Americans are in the grip of dual disasters and fearing mass deaths, with blazing fires in the west of the country and deadly floods wreaking havoc in the south-east.

Tales of survival are emerging out of the emergency zones as residents share how they went to extreme lengths to save their families.

One woman cut an electrical cord off a vacuum cleaner and bound herself to her children.

“I can at least try to save them,” Jessica Willett told USA Today.

“If they find us, they’ll find us together.”

For every lucky escape, there are dozens of people in despair; thousands have lost their livelihoods, been displaced or are fearing for the safety of their missing relatives.

Authorities confirmed on Tuesday morning that two people had been killed in a car in the driveway of their Klamath River home while trying to escape the massive wildfire sweeping California.

Oregon state Representative Dacia Grayber and her husband – who are firefighters – were evacuated during a trip near the California state.

Ms Grayber said she woke to a “terrifying” scene as a “monster” fire approached their campsite.

“In 22+ yrs of fire I’ve never experienced anything like this fire behavior at night,” she wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo of the orange sky.

“It felt absolutely surreal and not just a little apocalyptic.”

Dry lightning is threatening to spread the McKinney blaze further than the 222 square kilometres it has already burned near the California-Oregon border.

“Heat, instability, and increasing moisture along with multiple low pressure impulses…are expected to bring isolated to scattered thunderstorms and abundant lightning on dry fuels to the area,” the National Weather Service said.

“These conditions can be extremely dangerous for firefighters, as winds can be erratic and extremely strong, causing fire to spread in any direction.”

Separately, there are major fires burning in the states of Idaho and Montana.

Police are on alert for looters after finding two people prowling around the McKinney Fire evacuation zone on Monday.

Siskiyou County Sherrif’s office said two people were being held in the local jail.

“One suspect booked for possession of burglary tools and the other for burglary within an evacuation zone,” the office said.

“The Sheriff’s Office along with our law enforcement partners will continue a heavy presence, patrolling and protecting life and property in the fire evacuation zone.”

The largest fire in California this year has forced thousands of people to evacuate. Photo: Getty

Meanwhile, the body count at the scene of the Kentucky floods stands at 35. Four children are among the dead, Governor Andy Beshear said.

There are “hundreds” of people still missing across the state, Mr Beshear said.

Meteorologists have warned that tornadoes and hail are possible on Tuesday.

Combined with flash flooding, those conditions could further complicate rescue efforts.

“If things weren’t hard enough on people of this region, they’re getting rain right now,” Mr Beshear said.

Mr Beshear, who declared a state emergency last week, said over the weekend that authorities would likely “be finding bodies for weeks” as teams fan out to more remote areas.

Days of heavy rainfall – described by Mr Beshear as some of the worst in the US state’s history – caused some homes in the hardest-hit areas to be swept away.

Video clips posted online showed rescue teams guiding motor boats through residential and commercial areas searching for victims.

The Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team published footage of a helicopter air lifting an 83-year-old woman from a home to safety.

“Wolfe County Swift Water techs broke through a window to gain access to the family,” they said.

“One at a time, they were transported out of the home to gain acceess to the roof where a guardsman was positioned to assist with the hoist.”

Five people were trapped in an attic and rescued from the roof of the home, which was almost completely submerged in water, the crew said.

At least 16 deaths were reported in Knott County alone, including at least four children.

The floods were the second major disaster to strike Kentucky in seven months, following a swarm of tornadoes that claimed nearly 80 lives in the state’s west in December.

US President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Kentucky on Friday, allowing federal funding to be allocated to the state.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday.