Kentucky is currently experiencing the worst flooding in its history. At least 16 people, including several children, lost their lives in the disaster.
At least 16 people died in the “worst” floods in Kentucky’s history, and the toll could still double as the rain did not stop falling on Friday in this rural state in the center of the United States.
President Joe Biden declared a state of “natural disaster” and released federal reinforcements to support areas affected by “storms, floods, landslides and mudslides”.
Torrential rains pounded eastern Kentucky overnight Wednesday into Thursday, turning some roads into rivers and forcing residents to shelter on the roofs of their homes while they waited for help. Others have been trapped by rising waters or swept away in their vehicles, and the toll is “appalling,” Gov. Andy Beshear said.
“We now have 16 confirmed deaths and this number will continue to grow significantly,” the Democrat-elect said at a news conference.
Four brothers and sisters aged between one and a half and eight were swept away by the water as they had sought refuge on top of a tree with their parents. The bodies of two of them have been found and two remain missing, according to the local Lexington Herald Leader newspaper.
The parents “had managed to hold their children for a few hours, but a big wave came and took them all at once,” their cousin Brittany Trejo told the newspaper. An 82-year-old woman also drowned while trying to get to safety, the authorities said.
In the most affected places, houses were submerged, the lighter ones torn from the ground. “Hundreds of people have lost everything” and it will take at least a year to rebuild, Andy Beshear said.
Meanwhile, the emergency services, supported by reinforcements sent by neighboring states, are all mobilized to help the victims. About 50 air rescues by National Guard helicopters and hundreds of boat rescues have already taken place, according to the governor.
“But there is so much water, the currents are so strong, we can’t reach everyone,” he lamented. Heavy rain is expected until Friday evening and the flood warning remains in place.
With human-caused global warming, the atmosphere contains more water vapor, increasing the chances of heavy rainfall events, scientists say. These downpours, coupled with other factors particularly linked to land development, promote flooding.
Some areas of Kentucky received about 8 inches of rain in 24 hours, and in some places rivers suddenly rose several feet before bursting their banks. In the Jackson area, some roads have turned into mighty streams, with abandoned cars here and there.
Below these small valleys surrounded by forests, the land was flooded with light brown muddy water that in some places only allowed the roofs of buildings and trees to protrude. Thousands of people remained without electricity or running water on Friday. Shelters have been opened in gymnasiums, churches and state parks.
“This is the worst flooding in Kentucky history, and it’s coming after the worst tornadoes in Kentucky history,” Andy Beshear said. In December, several dozen violent tornadoes ravaged five central US states, mainly Kentucky, killing at least 79 people. President Joe Biden, who went there, then pointed out that the weather phenomena were “more intense” with global warming.