Kentucky death toll reaches 26 amid new flood threats

Rescue workers conduct door-to-door search efforts as they brace for worsening conditions

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Rescuers in Kentucky are conducting search and rescue operations in worsening conditions as they prepare for the daunting task to locate victims of devastating flooding, the US state's governor said on Sunday.

The death toll has risen to 26 from last week's storms, Andy Beshear said on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Mr Beshear said the toll will probably continue to rise dramatically, and it could take weeks to find all the victims. A daily briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggested that 37 people were unaccounted for.

“We're going to be finding bodies for weeks, many of them swept hundreds of yards, maybe a quarter-mile-plus from where they were lost,” Mr Beshear said.

Even more flash flooding was possible in portions of Appalachia on Sunday and Monday, the National Weather Service said. The same areas that were barraged last week could face rainfall rates of 2.5 to 5 centimetres an hour.

“This is one of the most devastating, deadly floods that we have seen in our history … And at a time that we're trying to dig out, it's raining,” Mr Beshear said.

“We're going to work to go door-to-door, work to find, again, as many people as we can. We're even going to work through the rain. But the weather is complicating it.”

A dozen shelters were open for flood victims in the state sheltering 388 occupants on Sunday, according to Fema.

The devastating floods hit a region of Kentucky where poverty is endemic, wiping away all the possessions of those who could least afford it.

“It wiped out areas where people didn't have that much to begin with,” Mr Beshear said.

The flooding in eastern Kentucky is in a series of extreme weather events which scientists say are direct results of climate change.

Eighty people, including nearly 60 in western Kentucky, were killed by a tornado in December 2021. Mr Beshear said that the disaster offered lessons for the opposite end of the state.

“We learnt a lot of lessons in western Kentucky on those devastating tornadoes about seven months ago, so we are providing as much support as we can and we are moving fast from all over the state to help out,” he told CNN on Saturday.

President Joe Biden on Friday declared a federal disaster on Friday to direct relief money to 12 counties in the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: July 31, 2022, 4:47 PM
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