Flash floods kill 12 people as campsites washed away

UP TO 12 people died and several were left stranded after flash floods triggered by more than six inches of rain wiped away campsites along a pair of south-western Arkansas rivers yesterday, state police said.

The normally peaceful Caddo and Little Missouri rivers rose by 20 feet overnight, swamping hikers and campers spending the night in the remote Ouachita Mountains.

The area also includes second homes, hunting camps and Unied States Forest Service campgrounds.

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"We don't know who was in there last night," state police spokesman Bill Sadler said. "This is a very wide area."

Mr Sadler said officials were bringing in a refrigerated truck to set up a temporary morgue.

Searchers were last night working along the Little Missouri River in Montgomery and Pike counties and the National Guard dispatched helicopters to help in the rescue.

Mr Sadler said 12 people had been killed in the floods.

Governor Mike Beebe said the deaths occurred about 5:30am, when the water hit its peak.

The Little Missouri west of Caddo Gap stood at 3ft on Thursday but after 7.6in of rain fell in the area overnight the level jumped to 23.5ft by yesterday morning. At 10am it had dropped to 11.5ft.

The damage was centred around the Camp Albert Pike area, 75 miles west of Little Rock.

Marty Trexler, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service at North Little Rock, said heavy rain fell throughout the region before moving into northern Arkansas.

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