US rescuers are now going door-to-door to locate victims of some of the worst devastating floods to ever hit Kentucky as rain resumes after a few hours of calm , the state's governor said on Sunday.
Some mountainous areas in eastern Kentucky remain inaccessible after flooding that turned some roads into rivers, washed away bridges, swept away homes and killed at least 26 people, according to a new toll from authorities.
The damage caused to the mobile telephone antennas complicated the rescue operations and made it impossible to estimate the number of dead and missing.
“These floods are some of the most devastating, deadliest we have ever seen,” Governor Andy Beshear said on NBC. “And when we're trying to clear it, it's raining!”.
“We're going door to door to try to locate as many people as possible. We will even do it in the rain. But the weather complicates things, ”he added.
The Democratic governor had earlier tweeted that the toll of the torrential rains, which fell on the east of this rural state overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, had gone from 25 to 26 dead.
“We are going to find bodies for weeks, many of which will have been carried hundreds of meters,” he said on NBC.
In the city of Jackson, in the center of the area the more heavily affected, rescuers and volunteers were gathered Sunday morning in the parking lot of a Walmart hypermarket before deploying.
Some were handing out bottled water. On a boat tied to a trailer was written “FEMA Rescue 4”, a sign that rescuers from the American disaster management agency were on site.
Under heavy black clouds heralding new rains, the streets were covered in a thick layer of mud.
The floods hit a region whose economy was already devastated by the decline of the mining industry, its main resource.
“They wiped out areas where people already had very little,” Beshear said.
Some parts of Kentucky received about 20 centimeters of rain in 24 hours, and in places, the waters of the rivers suddenly rose several meters before breaking their banks.
The national weather services have announced a new risk of flooding in the east-central United States, including Kentucky, on Sunday.
“The threat of flash flooding will increase during the day, with heavy showers and thunderstorms that will develop,” they tweeted.
President Joe Biden declared a state of “natural disaster” and released federal reinforcements to support areas affected by “the storm , floods, landslides and mudslides.”
These floods are the most recent manifestations of extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent with global warming caused by human activities.
In December, several dozen violent tornadoes ravaged five states in the central United States, mainly western Kentucky, and left at least 79 dead.