Historic flooding has so far killed at least 16 people in Kentucky, including children and possibly “entire families” — with the death toll expected to “more than double,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday.
At least four small children were swept away from their parents’ grips as flooding raged in Montgomery, a relative told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
President Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state Friday, ordering federal aid to augment state and local recovery efforts amid severe flooding, landslides and mudslides that started rocking the state Tuesday.
A flood watch was to remain in effect through at least Friday in eastern Kentucky, where more than 23,000 residents are still without power after heavy rain pummeled the area and parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia.
“[The death toll] probably more than double,” Beshear said Friday. “We know some of the lost will include children. We may have even lost entire families.”
Search and rescue teams along with the National Guard completed roughly 50 air rescues and “hundreds” of boat saves, Beshear said, acknowledging the heroes who responded to the flooding and mudslides across the battered mountainous state.
“This situation is ongoing,” Beshear said. “We are still in the search and rescue mode and at least in some areas, the water is not going to crest until tomorrow.”
Video from a roadway in Jackson showed widespread destruction and dozens of homes under water. Other footage shot from a drone in Whitesburg — a town of 2,200 — showed even more carnage caused by the floodwaters across entire communities.
At least four children were swept away from their parents’ grip as flooding raged in Montgomery, a relative told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The bodies of 6-year-old Riley Noble Jr., and 4-year-old Nevaeh Noble were recovered later Thursday, cousin Brittany Trejo told the newspaper.
Trejo said she started searching at daylight Friday for her other cousins, 8-year-old Maddison Noble and 18-month-old Chance Noble, who remain missing.
Their home had flooded Thursday, prompting parents Amber Smith and Riley Noble to get onto their roof, Trejo said.
“They managed to get to a tree and … held the children a few hours before a big tide came and washed them all away at the same time,” Trejo recalled. “The mother and father was stranded in the tree for 8 hours before anyone got there to help.”
The parents were found alive, but the bodies of Riley Jr. and Nevaeh were later recovered, Trejo said.
A Kentucky State Police spokesman confirmed that four children had been reported missing late Thursday, but he didn’t have additional details, according to the newspaper.
Knott County’s coroner declined to comment on the four children but confirmed late Thursday seven people had died in the flooding there. But authorities expect the death toll to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
“The numbers, I think, are going to be really hard to tell right now because some of the people they haven’t got to yet, and ‘m sure some of the coroners haven’t been able to report them,” Kentucky State Police spokesman Shane Goodall told the newspaper.
The hardest hit areas in eastern Kentucky got between 8 and 10 ½ inches of rain during a two-day period ending Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
The impacted counties in Kentucky included Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike, and Wolfe.
The North Fork of the Kentucky River also broke records in at least two places: in Whitesburg, where a gauge recorded a 20.9-foot crest, and in Jackson, where it topped out at 43.47 feet.
More heavy rainfall is expected Friday in central and eastern Kentucky, which remain under flood watches as rescuers continue to search for survivors and trapped residents.
“We’ve still got a lot of searching to do,” Perry County Emergency Management Director Jerry Stacy told The Associated Press. “We still have missing people.”
With Post wires