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Hikers form human chain to fight rising Utah river waters

SALT LAKE CITY -- Hikers formed a human chain across a river swollen with flash flood waters to pull each other across in Utah desert.

Video taken by Jhonatan Gonzalez showed fast-moving water, mud, debris flowing past the hikers as they tried to cross the river of water to escape the flood, CBS affiliate KUTV reports. Gonzalez said it was powerful watching people help each other through a dangerous situation. 

Jhonatan Gonzalez said rainfall upstream transformed the calm water on a hot and sunny day at Utah's red-rock Zion National Park into a waist-high rushing river on Saturday morning.

"There's no way out you just have to go through," said Gonzalez, 40, of Maui, Hawaii. 

He and a group of about 15 family members turned back when they saw the current become strong during a river hike known as The Narrows, but they soon reached an area where the water was higher. 

Gonzalez and his brothers originally stood in the water together to help several younger family members ranging from 1 to 8 years old cross the river. 

Strangers joined their line as they continued to help dozens of other hikers cross the river choked with logs and debris.

Gonzalez paused briefly to take a video of the effort with his cellphone.

"It felt good. It was a chilling experience. It almost made me feel teary, just seeing how everyone was helping each other," he said.

But Chief Park Ranger for Zion National Park, Daniel Fagegren, told KUTV that what these people did was extremely dangerous and he would have liked to have seen the group choose a different method of survival.

"I would have liked to have seen them take the high ground. You can see in the video areas in the background, there's big rocks there's trees in other areas." Fagegren said. 

Zion closed the area later that afternoon after a flash-flood warning. Ranger John Marciano says rangers work hard to warn people to watch weather reports and be careful of fast-moving water. Anyone caught in risky weather should get to high ground immediately, especially in the river where rocks can quickly become treacherously slippery.

Flash floods at Zion have proved fatal in the past, including a devastating 2015 flood in a deep, narrow canyon that killed seven people. 

In Arizona, dozens of hikers have been rescued from floodwaters in recent weeks. Ten people died in mid-July when a sudden rainstorm thundered through a tranquil swimming area about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix. 

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