Published On: Fri, Jul 29th, 2022

Death toll rises to 16 in Kentucky floods and is ‘going to get a lot higher,’ governor says

At least 16 people are dead and the death toll “is going to get a lot higher” as devastating rainfall continues in eastern Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said in an update Friday.

Eleven of the deaths, which include two children, happened in Knott County in eastern Kentucky, the governor said.

“To all the families that know you’ve already sustained a loss, we’re going to grieve with you, we’re going to support you and we’re going to be here for you not just today, but tomorrow and in the weeks and the years to come,” Beshear said.

Also Friday, President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration in the state and ordered federal aid to be sent to “areas affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides,” according to a news release from the White House.

Image: Major Flooding Ravages Eastern Kentucky After Heavy Rains
Members of a rescue team assist a family out of a boat Thursday in Quicksand, Ky.Michael Swensen / Getty Images

Beshear said the state made around 50 air rescues and hundreds of boat rescues Thursday. So far, 294 people have been rescued and 337 are in shelters, he added.

“This situation is ongoing,” he said. “We are still in the search and rescue mode and at least in some areas, the water is not going to crest until tomorrow.”

Rescue teams, assisted by the National Guard, were searching Friday for more missing people, according to The Associated Press.

“We’ve got volunteers coming in to help,” Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director in Perry County, told MSNBC. “That’s going to be our focus, and, you know, we do still have people missing, and we’re doing everything that we can do in our power to find them.”

It was not clear how many people were still unaccounted for Friday morning.

On Thursday, the state ordered the evacuation of the Panbowl Lake area in eastern Kentucky’s Breathitt County, where officials are worried the dam will breach.

“We have already gone door to door and around to try to evacuate as many people who are willing to go,” Beshear said. “If you’re still there, why don’t you go find a friend, a relative, somebody to stay with, go to a hotel — just get somewhere safe. We don’t want to lose any more people than we have to.”

More than 23,000 people in the state are without power and “many counties without water,” he added.

At least 28 state roads are blocked as a result of damage from flooding and crews from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are working to clear them, according to Beshear.

“We have bridge inspectors and engineers in the field, but we’re unable to even get to some of these roadways,” he said. “It is so bad.”

Through the weekend, 2 to 4 inches of rain is possible in eastern Kentucky.

Homes submerged under floodwaters
Leandro Lozado / AFP – Getty Images
Kentucky flooding
Homes submerged under floodwaters Thursday from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Ky.Leandro Lozado / AFP – Getty Images

As many as 3 million people remain under flood alerts across Kentucky, West Virginia, parts of northeastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia and a few counties in southern Ohio.

Beshear told “NBC Nightly News” host Lester Holt on Thursday that the ongoing floods are “by far the worst flooding disaster” of his lifetime in the state.

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