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At least 16 campers dead in Arkansas flash flood

CADDO GAP, Ark. - Floodwaters that rose as swiftly as 8 feet an hour tore through a campground packed with vacationing families early Friday, carrying away tents and overturning RVs as campers slept. At least 16 people were killed, and dozens more missing and feared dead.

Heavy rains caused the normally quiet Caddo and Little Missouri rivers to climb out of their banks during the night. Around dawn, floodwaters barreled into the Albert Pike Recreation Area, a 54-unit campground in the Ouachita National Forest that was packed with vacationing families.

The raging torrent poured through the remote valley with such force that it peeled asphalt off roads and bark off trees. Cabins dotting the river banks were severely damaged. Mobile homes lay on their sides.

Two dozen people were hospitalized. Authorities rescued 60 others.

Marc and Stacy McNeil of Marshall, Texas, survived by pulling their pickup truck between two trees and standing in the bed in waist-deep water.

"It was just like a boat tied to a tree," Marc McNeil said, describing how the truck bobbed up and down.

Authorities agreed that the death toll could easily rise."As that river goes down, you don't know how many people are under it," Gov. Mike Beebe said.

Forest Service spokesman John Nichols said it would have been impossible to warn everyone that the flood was coming. The area has spotty cell phone service and no sirens.

Brigette Williams, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Little Rock, estimated that up to 300 people were in the area when the floods swept through.

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