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At least eight people were killed and about 40 others were missing on Saturday after catastrophic flash floods swept through Central Tennessee, the authorities said.

Rob Edwards, the chief deputy of the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed the numbers of missing and dead and said the authorities were doing house-to-house checks in the hardest-hit areas in Humphreys, a rural county of about 18,500 roughly 72 miles west of Nashville.

There were “power outages all over the area,” Deputy Edwards said in an email, adding, “Complicating issues is the loss of all cellphone coverage from the major carriers.”

Portable communication units were being brought in to help restore service, he said.

“We have lost a lot of roads, both rural and major highways,” he said. “In my 28 years, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

The devastation came after an estimated eight to 10 inches of rain inundated Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys Counties, the National Weather Service said on Saturday morning.

The service said that some areas had reported more than 11 inches of rain, with even higher amounts in some areas “very likely.”

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said that the state Emergency Operations Center had been activated in Nashville to support water rescues and other urgent requests for help from local officials.

“Our first priority is to assist with getting responders access to the area and conduct rescue operations,” Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard, wrote on Twitter. “We’ll continue to increase the number of forces as the situation dictates and we’ll be positioning additional specialty units to respond as needed.”

At least 4,200 people across the state had lost power, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. It said that flooding in the affected counties was “dangerous and evolving,” and it urged residents to stay off the roads, charge electronic devices and monitor the news.

“Do not attempt to cross flooded roads or walkways,” the agency said. “Turn around, don’t drown.”

Waverly Elementary School in Waverly, Tenn., the Humphreys County seat, reported on Facebook that it had been “completely flooded” with water “4 feet deep in the entire school.”

Two women had been stranded in the school gymnasium with some of their family members, the school said, before reporting that they were “no longer at the school and on dry ground.”

“Please continue to pray for our community!” the school said.

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