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Death toll rises to 35 in eastern Ky flooding

Aerial view of the flood damage in southeastern Kentucky. (Kentucky Governor's Office)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP) – At least 35 people have been confirmed dead due to devastating flooding that has hit the southeast part of the state, and Gov. Andy Beshear says the number will continue to grow in the coming days, as more areas become accessible.

As of 9 a.m. Monday, there are seven confirmed deaths in Breathitt County, two in Clay, 16 in Knott, two in Letcher, and three in Perry County.

The large loss of life has overwhelmed local authorities, according to the governor, forcing the State Medical Examiner’s Office to help in the disaster. “We’ve had to fly the bodies here to Frankfort, to have enough staff to perform the autopsies. We do have a refrigerated truck being used right now, because we don’t have enough morgue capacity.”

Beshear says there are more than 300 Kentucky National Guard members fulfilling a variety of roles to help residents in the disaster area. 

“Delivering supplies, search and rescue, augmenting police, traffic, debris removal, they’re really good at it,” he stated. “Our Guard has been amazing.  I got a chance to spend a moment without Guard that has been airlifting people.  They were exhausted, but they were living their mission.  They were ready to go again at a moment’s notice.  We are so proud of them, State Police, Fish and Wildlife, law enforcement, and individual citizens who rescued more people than all those others combined.”

Thirteen counties have been declared major disaster areas by President Joe Biden, which frees up federal aid to local government for recovery efforts, and five of them have also been approved for individual assistance.

“In those five counties,” Beshear said, “in Breathitt, Clay, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties, renters and homeowners can already begin applying for FEMA individual disaster assistance.”

FEMA representatives are on their way, but residents in those affected areas can call 1-800-621-FEMA or go to disasterassistance.gov, to begin the process.

The governor said cell service is now being restored in many areas, which should aid in the search for people who are reported to be missing.

People wishing to make donations to help flood victims can go to the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s page or SendRelief’s page.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from Kentucky and a number of other states are responding to the emergency.

Other services and information for flood victims can be found at https://governor.ky.gov/disaster-response/flood-resources.

As of 9 a.m. Monday, there were still more than 12,000 people who had no electricity power, according to the Governor, down from close to 30,000 at its peak.  “The counties with over 1,000 customers without power are Perry, Letcher, Pike, Breathitt and Knott, and I know crews are working hard to restore it.”

Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, and those concerned about their loved ones who still don’t have phone service can go to https://kentuckystatepolice.org/post-locations/, and call the post that serves their county.  Troopers say they will try to track them down.