16 dead in Kentucky floods, death toll expected to rise

JACKSON: Search and rescue teams were using boats and helicopters on Friday (Jul 29) to look for survivors of flash floods caused by torrential rains which killed at least 16 people in the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky.

Andy Beshear, governor of the south-central US state, warned that the death toll from the severe flooding was likely to “get a lot higher”.

Beshear said six of the 16 confirmed dead were children, including four from the same family.

Kentucky National Guard helicopters, Fish and Wildlife boats and a flotilla of volunteers were scouring flood-hit areas on Friday for residents stranded on rooftops and clinging on to trees.

Hundreds of people have been rescued by boat since the flooding began on Wednesday evening and there have been about 50 aerial rescues using National Guard helicopters, he said.

With many roads washed out “we still can’t get to a lot of people”, the governor said.

“The current is so strong it’s not safe for some of those water rescues that we need to do.”

The impoverished Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky has had flash flooding previously, Beshear noted, “but we’ve never seen something like this”.

“Folks who deal with this for a living, who have been doing it for 20 years, have never seen water this high,” he said.

“Some people’s houses were completely swept away in the middle of the night while they were sleeping.”