Torrential rains cause Texas floods, train derailment

Beatrice Banda paddles a rubber raft through floodwater in Dallas, Texas, USA, on May 30, 2015.
Beatrice Banda paddles a rubber raft through floodwater in Dallas, Texas, USA, on May 30, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

AUSTIN (AFP) - Torrential rains created transit mayhem in the US state of Texas on Saturday (Oct 24), including a train derailment and scores of cancelled flights at one of the nation's busiest airports.

Flash flood or flood warnings were in effect for major metropolitan areas, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio due to a deluge that began Thursday.

Officials in Navarro County said it had received several reports of over 20 inches (50 centimetres) of rain in the past 24 hours.

It was in this county that a freight train was swept off the tracks and partially submerged some 60 miles (100 kilometres) south of Dallas when passing over a bridge along a creek, local broadcaster WFAA reported.

A spokesman for train operator Union Pacific said the conductor and engineer were able to save themselves by jumping out of the locomotive when the water starting rising.

"They swam to some high ground there," Jeff DeGraff told WFAA. "They're wet, but in good condition." Dramatic aerial footage from the scene showed the locomotive and some of the train cars lying on their side in floodwaters.

According to flight tracker FlightAware, some 100 flights were cancelled at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

In Austin, meanwhile, heavy rain meant that a final free practice session ahead of the Formula One US Grand Prix race took place in front of empty grandstands at the Circuit of the Americas. Organizers earlier announced the circuit was to remain closed until noon.

Friday's action at the circuit was hit by heavy storms with lightning that endangered track staff resulting in a damp and desultory opening free practice and the cancellation of the second.

The rain was not expected to taper off for some time, forecasters warned.

"Very heavy rainfall is expected to continue on Saturday across portions of the southern Plains, especially southern and eastern Texas," the National Weather Service said.

NWS forecasters said heavy rains were expected to sweep into southeastern Texas from rich Gulf moisture and the remains of the former Pacific hurricane Patricia, which slammed into the western coast of Mexico Friday as a power Category 5 storm before dissipating into a tropical depression.