At least 24 people have died in floods stemming from heavy rainfall in the US state of West Virginia, emergency officials said Saturday.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency and said it could be the worst flooding the state has seen in 100 years.

US President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration to free up federal funding for disaster response.

That includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster, the White House said.

A low pressure system has drenched the area since Thursday, dropping as much as 25 centimetres of rain, leading to massive flooding, mudslides and landslides. Streets and railroad tracks were destroyed and bridges washed away in the mountainous state.

Most flood warnings were lifted by Friday evening, and the clean-up was under way with help from the National Guard.

Several hundred people were reportedly stranded at a shopping area because a bridge to the location had been washed away. Some were able to leave the area after rescuers dug an alternative way out on a hillside, news reports said.

Television images portrayed raging rivers of water moving through towns. One video showed a burning house that had been ripped from its foundation being carried away by high water.

In the town of Ravenswood a 4-year-old boy was dragged into the water before the eyes of his grandfather, the Charelston Gazette-Mail reported. The man tried to pull the boy to safety but was unsuccessful. The youngster's body was found on Friday.

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