Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said there could be “significantly more” deaths due to devastating flooding in the eastern part of the state.
“It will get worse. And I think we’re going to update it, maybe even for weeks to come. … There are still so many missing people. And in this area, it will be a difficult task to get an accurate number of missing persons,” he told CNN in an interview.
At least 25 people have died from the floods so far, Beshear said earlier on Saturday.
In a briefing later that afternoon, Beshear outlined the death toll by county: four in Breathitt County, two in Clay County, 14 in Knott County, two in Letcher County and three in Perry County.
Beshear noted at the press conference that authorities now believe “there are only four children in this group and not six.”
“The first two children reported to us have now turned out to be adults,” he said. “It’s still two people who have been lost and we mourn them, but we wanted to make sure that we had communicated our most recent information.”
He said it is expected to rain again later on Sunday, so rescue teams are moving as quickly as possible.
“The water is still high in some counties. It is crested in most, but not all. The water systems are overwhelmed so either no water or unsafe water you need to boil. Think of toilets in entire counties. We have a hospital that has no water. So real challenges there. And we’re still in this thing. Even though it stopped raining — and thank God it stopped raining — we are still in search and rescue mode,” Beshear told CNN.
“Right now the forecast looks like counties below the Mountain Parkway, another inch to maybe two inches, which could be ballpark. It should go through parts of Monday and then fade away,” he added during the briefing. “The challenge after that, it’s going to get really hot as we go through the week.”
National Guard units in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia performed more than 660 air rescues, and there were more than 600 water rescues, Beshear told CNN.
Rescuers from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife are also at the forefront of recovery efforts, he said.
“They ultimately had to collect the bodies more than anyone else,” Beshear said. “The mission was particularly difficult and what they experience firsthand is extremely stressful and difficult.”
Even though search and rescue operations are continuing, the governor noted that authorities are already preparing to help the displaced people.
“For everyone in Eastern Kentucky, we will be here for you today and in the weeks, months and years to come. We will get through this together,” Beshear said in a tweet on Saturday.
“It’s a type of flooding that even a flooded area has never seen in our lifetimes,” Beshear told CNN after returning from an aerial flood tour in Breathitt County on Friday.