At least 25 people have drowned and many more potential victims are missing in the record floods in eastern Kentucky caused by the devastating rains that swept through the heart of the US Appalachian region.
Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear said on Saturday that it may take weeks to find all of the victims, noting the death toll would likely rise significantly after it has risen repeatedly since catastrophic flooding in the early morning hours of Friday.
Dozens of roads and bridges that are being either blocked by debris or washed out are hindering the rescue efforts, leaving residents in some areas trapped on rooftops. Boat and helicopter teams have rescued at least 1,200 people so far.
Four young children, swept away from their parents’ arms as they clung to a tree, were among the bodies recovered.
Thousands of homes were left without power and water service on Saturday, and, in some areas, people were unable to contact missing friends and relatives due to the knocked-out mobile phone service.
Due to the disrupted communication, the state lacks accurate information on how many people in some of the remote areas have been devastated by the flood.
After flying over parts of the flood-stricken region on Friday, Beshear said that the damage in Kentucky is so severe- he described it as total devastation- it may take years for communities to rebuild, especially in the wake of last year’s tornadoes that killed 70 people.
Torrential rains slamming some of the poorest areas in the US inundated the region with up to 26.6cm of rain in a 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday, during which the Kentucky River rose to six feet above its previous record, prompting President Biden to declare a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties.
Heavy rains in the region were also expected on Sunday.