Kentucky flood death toll expected to rise as search efforts continue

Governor Andy Beshear is expected to visit flood-stricken areas of eastern Kentucky on Sunday after more than two dozen people were confirmed dead and rescue efforts continued.

From Sunday, at least 26 people had died following severe storms that caused record flooding as well as landslides and landslides, Beshear said. In a YouTube video posted Sunday, the governor said his office was aware of additional bodies but could “not confirm these deaths at this time.”

“We want to make sure we wrap our arms around our brothers and sisters in Eastern Kentucky. The next few days are going to be tough,” he said.

Beshear warned that more rain was expected in the coming days and conditions could worsen.

Beshear had previously said six children were among the dead, but reduced the number to four at a press conference early Saturday afternoon after confirming that two of the victims were in fact adults.

“I fear we will find bodies in the coming weeks,” Beshear said. “Keep praying.”

Authorities have yet to be able to get an accurate tally of missing people as rescue teams struggle to get into hard-hit areas, some of them among the poorest in the country.

Making it harder is the fact that many affected areas remain without cell service, which limits people’s ability to make contact with affected loved ones, Beshear said.

More than 700 people have been rescued so far by helicopters and boats from National Guardsmen in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia as well as several other agencies assisting in rescue efforts, Beshear said.

“Our goal today is to get as many people as possible to safety,” he said, while urging people in affected areas to prepare for more rain in the days to come.

Flood alerts are expected to remain in place in parts of Kentucky through Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s not fair that it’s going to rain again,” Beshear said. “I don’t want to lose one more person.”

Lexington Fire Department swiftwater rescue crews travel Troublesome Creek
Fast water rescue crews from the Lexington Fire Department are heading to Troublesome Creek in Lost Creek, Kentucky, on Friday to pick up people stranded due to flooding.Michael Swensen/Getty Images

Just for the past two days, the affected areas have received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches of rain. Still, some waterways aren’t expected to peak until Saturday.

Around 16,000 electricity customers were left without power on Saturday morning, according to Kentucky Power.

Fifteen emergency shelters have already been established in the area to help anyone affected by the floods, Beshear said.

Federal disaster assistance was made available to Kentucky after President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration, FEMA announced on Friday.

On Saturday, Biden said he had added individual assistance to the major disaster declaration in hopes of further helping displaced families.

FEMA emergency personnel will provide 18 tanker trucks to help compensate for lack of water access in some areas as Kentucky is expected to experience high temperatures next week, Beshear said.

Due to lack of electricity, 19 water systems are operating with limited capacity, the governor said.

Nearly 27,000 connections are without water as of early Saturday afternoon, according to Beshear. About 29,000 other connections receive unsafe water that must be boiled before drinking.

Beshear stressed that authorities will likely remain in the recovery and rescue phase for several weeks, adding that they will have a better idea of ​​damage estimates after the floodwaters dissipate.

Kalhan Rosenblatt and The Associated Press contributed.

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