Biden to visit flood-stricken Colorado

LOS ANGELES - US Vice President Joe Biden will visit the flood-stricken state of Colorado next week, his office said Thursday, as the death toll from the natural disaster rose to seven.

Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, will fly to Colorado on Monday to see first hand the devastation wrought by flash floods triggered by a week of torrential rain.

As communities mop up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the floods have triggered oil and gas spills from 10 different locations, according to The Denver Post.

The western US state is recovering after the rain eased from Monday, although 143 people remain unaccounted for - down from more than 1,200 missing at the height of the crisis last week.

The death toll, which had been cut from eight to six on Tuesday, went up again to seven on Thursday, according to the latest Colorado Office of Emergency Management update.

Four victims died in Boulder County, two in El Paso and one in Clear Creek, it said.

Authorities were dealing with two "significant" oil and gas spills triggered by the floods, with another eight releases classified as minor, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, cited by The Denver Post.

One of the bigger spills was near Milliken, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver, and another near Firestone, some 20 miles further south, the newspaper reported.

Flash floods afflicted 17 counties down a 200-mile north-south section of the Front Range, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains.

The total area flooded was 1,918 square miles (4,965 square kilometers), according to the emergency management office.

In all, 11,750 people were evacuated. More than 17,000 residential structures have been damaged, and over 1,500 destroyed.