Torrential downpours in Kentucky have killed at least 25 people, search for missing persons could drag on for weeks
Devastating rains that swept through the heart of the American Appalachians have led to record flooding in eastern Kentucky, killing at least 25 people and missing many more potential victims.
The death toll has risen repeatedly since Kentuckians woke up to catastrophic flooding in the early hours of Friday, and Governor Andy Beshear said Saturday it could take weeks to find all the victims. Among the bodies found were those of four young children who were swept from their parents’ arms as they clung to a tree.
“We are in search and rescue mode”, Beshear told reporters. “That number will continue to rise, and we’re not losing that many people to flooding. It’s just a really tough one.”
With dozens of roads and bridges blocked by debris or washed away, rescue efforts have been hampered, leaving residents trapped on rooftops in some areas. At least 1,200 people have been rescued by boat and helicopter.
Electricity and water supplies continued to be cut for thousands of homes on Saturday. Cell phone service has also been disabled in some areas, preventing people from contacting missing friends and relatives. The state does not have accurate information about how many people lived in some of the remote areas devastated by the flood.
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“Until we have full cell phone service, you can assume there are hundreds of people — maybe they’re fine, I hope they’re okay — their loved ones haven’t interacted with them yet,” said the governor.
The region was flooded with eight to 10.5 inches of rain in a 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday, hitting some of the poorest areas in the US. The Kentucky River reportedly rose to six feet above the previous record. Heavy rain could return to the region on Sunday.
“I’m afraid we’ll find bodies in the coming weeks,” said Beshear.
The most recent Kentucky disaster occurred the same week that St. Louis was hit by more than 9 inches of rain in a 24-hour period on Monday and Tuesday, shattering a record that had stood since 1915. A second round of torrential rain hit St. Louis on Thursday, flooding parts of the city and killing at least two people.
The damage in Kentucky is so severe it could take years for communities to rebuild, Beshear said. Last year, the state was hit by tornadoes that killed 70 people. “I don’t want to lose another Kentuckian”, said the governor. “We’ve lost way too much.”
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