Devastating floods after record rainfall in the southern US state of Tennessee have left at least 21 people dead and at least 20 more missing, local officials said on August 23 in what they warned was a preliminary toll.

Tennessee was hit on August 22 by what meteorologists called historic storms and flooding, dumping as much as 38cm of rain.

Rural roads, state highways, bridges and hundreds of homes were washed out and widespread power outages affected thousands of people.

In Humpreys county, about 90 minutes from country music hub Nashville, the downpour on August 22 broke a 24-hour rainfall record for Tennessee, the National Weather Service said.

Tennessee governor Bill Lee described to a televised press conference on August 23 a “picture of loss and heartache” in Waverly, a hard-hit town of around 4,500 where 20 of the victims died.

Police chief Grant Gillespie said the other death was in a more remote area of the county.

Authorities have imposed a night-time curfew amid efforts to account for the missing.

Search and rescue operations were continuing on August 23, with workers going from home to home to search for victims or those needing assistance.