Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) expressed concern on Saturday that officials would be finding bodies lost in the severe flooding “for weeks to come” and confirmed that at least 25 people had died so far.
During a press conference held in the early afternoon, the governor revised a previous death toll that had found six of 25 confirmed dead were children. He said officials now believe there are four children dead in addition to 21 adults.
He cautioned, however, that those figures were expected to increase. Beshear said officials were still figuring out an accurate way to count the number of individuals who were missing from the flooding, given that some affected areas still did not have working cell service.
Beshear also said the state was still in search-and-rescue mode, adding that it could take days, if not weeks, before it transitions into the rebuilding phase.
“Make sure you are in a safe place. I don’t want to lose one more person. We care about you. It’s not fair it’s gon’ rain again. But it is. We’re pretty sure of it,” Beshear said. “And while … it’s not anticipated to be anything like what we’ve already been through, there’s a lot of saturation, and there’s a lot of water out there.”
“Be careful. You’re still with us. We want you to stay with us,” he added.
Beshear’s grim assessment came after Kentucky was hit with heavy rains Wednesday, flooding roads, raising water levels in rivers and drowning houses.
The National Guard has conducted rescue missions, pulling more than 100 people out of the water via aircraft. The Kentucky Air National Guard Special Tactics Squadron, in coordination with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, has rescued dozens more.
President Biden on Friday approved a disaster declaration for the state that allows federal assistance to be channeled to Kentucky, which was also impacted by tornados and storms that killed tens of people in the state less than a year ago.
“Kentucky’s Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the President on Thursday in support of the governor’s request. I appreciate the swift action by the Biden administration and the unity from our in delegation in helping those affected,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted Friday.
“My heart breaks for the Kentucky families mourning the loss of loved ones as flooding continues. Thank you to all first responders working to prevent further tragedy. I’m monitoring this situation and working with federal, state, and local officials to assist in any way possible,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tweeted on Friday.