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8 people killed in Colorado flooding; number of unaccounted for decreases

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DENVER -- The State Emergency Management Office said Tuesday morning that eight people have been killed as a result of the widespread flooding along the Front Range.

Officials say there was one fatality in Clear Creek County, three in Boulder County, two in El Paso County and two people missing but presumed dead in Larimer County.

According to the OEM, the number of people unaccounted for in Colorado was cut nearly in half Tuesday, dropping from 1,253 to about 595.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said the number of people unaccounted for in the area is now down to 197, while the number of people missing or unaccounted for in Boulder has gone down to 183.

According to the Boulder OEM, after 215 air rescues and 11 ground rescues, 567 people who were previously unaccounted for have been contacted, and 120 pets were rescued.

The number of people missing has changed dramatically since Thursday's heavy rain as stranded people find rescue and law enforcement officials consolidate missing persons registers.

Helicopters from the National Guard fanned out across the Front Range Monday, and 1,100 troops are working around the clock to to look for people still stranded across hundreds of square miles of flooded land. Choppers resumed the aerial search at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"Our birds are up and flying," said Wyoming National Guard, which sent resources to Colorado, in a tweet. "If (you're) in trouble, we will find you! We will get you to safety!"

Troops from the National Guard based out of Alamosa are also coming in to help with the search.

More than 1,000 people in Larimer County alone were cut off and in need of rescue, deputy incident commander Chuck Russell said.

Flood waters caused damage across 17 counties from Weld and Larimer counties down south to El Paso County.  It's estimated that about 536 people were in 24 shelters on Monday night.

There are new disaster assistance centers open in Loveland and in Weld County.

No good statewide estimate of the number of roads and highways that were damaged by flood waters has been released yet. In Boulder County, officials have said 100 to 150 miles of roadway and 20 to 30 bridges were damaged.

LINK: Road closures from CDOT

The Colorado Office of Emergency Management reported that early appraisals say 17,994 structures have been damaged and 1,502 destroyed statewide.

The OEM did not specify where the new fatalities were discovered. Previously only four deaths had been confirmed with two other people missing and presumed dead.

The four confirmed deaths include a man and a woman, both 19, who were swept away after leaving their car Thursday in Boulder County. Authorities said the woman left the car first, and the man jumped out to try to save her.

Another body was found in a collapsed home in Jamestown. Rescuers recovered a fourth body on a roadway in Colorado Springs in El Paso County.

Those presumed dead include a 60-year-old woman and an 80-year-old woman, both in Larimer County.

But while authorities said the presumed death toll could rise, most of the people on the unaccounted list are likely alive and well but have failed to check in with authorities to let them know, officials said Monday.

Federal resources, including FEMA, have arrived in Colorado to help with recovery.

During a news conference with FEMA officials, Gov. John Hickenlooper said "Obviously today we continue to be focused on search and recovery. That’s our highest priority to make sure that we don’t leave anybody in harm’s way throughout this entire flood event and we will continue doing that."

Hickenlooper vowed to begin rebuilding efforts as soon as possible.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said already 3,000 people have registered for disaster assistance and he urged more to do so.

"We work with the state and local officials but we do need the public. If you’ve been impacted, to make that initial call to register with FEMA so that we can work with you," he said.