Gov. Andy Beshear pledged support from the state of Kentucky to secure housing for flood-affected residents and pay for funerals for more than two dozen victims ahead of heavy rains expected this week.
“The next few days are going to continue to be difficult, but I promise you life will get better,” Beshear said at a press conference on Sunday. “We’re going to stabilize everyone and in some form of housing, and we’ll clear the debris and move on.
At least 26 people have died following severe storms that brought landslides, landslides and record flooding, Beshear said. Four children – siblings aged two to eight – are among the dead.
As many as 37 people were missing, according to a daily briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On top of that, more flash flooding was possible in parts of Appalachia on Sunday and Monday as the latest storms rolled in, the National Weather Service said. Rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour were possible in some of the same areas that were flooded last week.
A dozen shelters were open for flood victims in Kentucky with 388 occupants Sunday, according to FEMA.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Beshear said he knew of “several additional bodies” and that the death toll will continue to rise, with affected areas receiving between 8 and 10 1/ 2 inches of rain. .
“With the water level we’re going to be finding bodies for weeks, many of them have swept hundreds of yards, maybe over a quarter of a mile from where they were lost. “, said Beshear.
In a YouTube video posted on Sunday, the governor said his aides were aware of “additional bodies that have been recovered” but could “not confirm these deaths at this time.”
At the press conference, Beshear said the region faces a “moderate risk of excessive rain” and some areas could experience flash flooding. Several counties remained under flood warnings and flood watches on Sunday and into the following days, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s really hurting the morale of people who have seen this amount of rain,” the governor said of the expected rain. “We hope, and we certainly do not believe for the region, [that] it will cause further massive flooding, but we have to be prepared,” he said.
Relief officials are struggling to reach hard-hit areas, some of which are among the poorest in the country.
At the press conference, the governor became emotional as he described how poor cell phone service and population undercounts made it difficult to determine the number of missing people.
“I wish we had a real, firm number of missing people,” he said.
The National Guard has performed more than 1,000 airlift rescues, Beshear said.
Amid complaints that hotels, motels and shelters in the area are full, Beshear told the press conference that the state government plans to work directly with hotels to fund rooms and that authorities were setting up a shelter at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.
“Our commitment is that we’re going to get everyone back on their feet – every person, no matter how long it takes and no matter what it takes,” Beshear said at the press conference.
The governor urged people to donate new clothes and drinking water, and to send money to the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, which he said will pay for the funerals of the victims.
“People shouldn’t have to go through a repayment process that takes months when they’re grieving a loved one,” the governor said. “No forms, no requests, we will work directly with funeral homes.”
FEMA announced Friday that President Biden had issued a major disaster declaration, making federal aid available to the state.
On Saturday, Biden said he added individual assistance to that statement with the help of additional assistance to displaced families.
In addition, 80 FEMA workers are on the ground and the governor plans to request more, Perry County Executive Judge Scott Alexander said at the press conference.
“It’s not going to be an easy rebuild, but I’m here to tell you that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is going to support you every day until it’s completely rebuilt,” Beshear said.
Nicole Acevedo contributed.