JACKSON, Kentucky ( Associated Press) — Search and rescue teams backed by the US National Guard searched Friday for missing people in record flooding that has swept through communities in some of the country’s poorest places. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said 16 people had died and the total was expected to rise as the rain continued.
“We have a lot to do,” said Jerry Stacey, emergency management director for Perry County, Kentucky. “There are still missing people.”
Powerful floods engulfed communities along rivers and streams in the Appalachian valleys, submerging homes and businesses, destroying vehicles, and sending equipment and bridges colliding with debris. The mudslides left residents stuck on steep slopes and at least 33,000 users were without power.
Beshear told the Associated Press on Friday that children were among the victims and that the death toll could double as rescue teams still search the area.
“The painful news is that now 16 deaths have been confirmed and there are going to be many more,” the governor announced in a meeting with the press in the morning. He said that the deaths have taken place in four districts.
The governor said rescue teams carried out about 50 air rescues and hundreds of water rescues on Thursday and there were more people in need of help. “This is not only an ongoing disaster, but also an ongoing search and rescue. The water is not going to reach its maximum level in some places till tomorrow.
He said it is difficult to determine the number of people missing in the disaster area due to the failure of cell service and power. “It’s so widespread, it’s a challenge for local officials to even determine a number.”
Beshear said more than 200 people have gone to the shelters. The governor deployed National Guard troops to the hardest-hit areas. The three parks set up shelters and, seeing the severity of the damage, the government opened an Internet website for donations to the victims.
President Joe Biden called to express his support for a lengthy recovery process, said Beshear, who predicted it would take more than a year to fully rebuild the area.