t least 25 people have died, including at least four children, as historically destructive flooding swept through Eastern Kentucky this week, according to the governor’s office and local authorities. The death toll is “likely to increase” as rescue efforts continue and inaccessible areas open up, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.
More than 1,200 rescues have been made as of Saturday morning, but it’s unknown how many are still missing, and Beshear has said that rescue efforts could take weeks, the Associated Press reported. “This is still an emergency situation,” Beshear said during a Saturday press conference. He said that the state was still in rescue and search mode.
Floods on Thursday and Wednesday caused the destruction of hundreds of businesses and homes. Although the flooding stopped in some places on Saturday, it is still in effect in many other areas as rising water levels force flood warnings. According to Beshear, rescue officials are under pressure to keep searching for victims before it rains on Sunday.
The flooding plowed through much of Eastern Kentucky—hitting several counties including: Breathitt, Floyd, Perry, Knott, Leslie, Pike and Magoffin. Appalachia lies in Eastern Kentucky. The mountainous terrain of the region can cause flooding without warning. Residents of valleys are more likely to experience flooding due to the barren and mined mountainsides. Mobile homes and those living near creeks are especially vulnerable. There is not much escape route.
More than 18,000 Kentucky citizens were without electricity as of Saturday morning. Access to water is still limited. It is difficult to access water in many remote Appalachian villages during natural disasters due to their isolation. Many areas that were already affected by floods are still recovering from the destruction of roads, buildings and infrastructure. There is also a lot of homeless people.
“To everyone in Eastern Kentucky, we are going to be there for you today and in the weeks, months and years ahead. We will get through this together,” Beshear tweetedOn Saturday morning.
President Biden signed Friday’s emergency declaration for Kentucky. This allows more than 12 counties to be eligible for federal assistance.
“I spoke with Governor Beshear and Senator McConnell today to offer the full support of the federal government to the people of Kentucky in response to the devastating flooding,” President Biden tweeted.
The National Guard, state agencies, and the National Guard are conducting search operations by helicopter and boat for any stranded persons since Thursday. Voluntary workers have also been stepping up to aid flood victims.
Experts believe that the Kentucky flooding is part of larger patterns of extreme weather phenomenons caused by climate change. These experts believe that the inland flooding of these areas inaccessible to waterways is rising as fossil fuels heat up, trapping moisture, and producing more severe rainfall.
“Scientists can observe it in real time now, which is pretty scary. So heavy rain has increased all over the U.S. And in the southeastern U.S., including in Kentucky, it’s increased by almost a third,” Rebecca Hersher, a science reporter at NPR, said in a recent interview.
It is the second major natural catastrophe in Kentucky within recent months. Kentucky was also hit hard by several tornadoes that left more than 70 dead, and destroyed homes and buildings.
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