At least 16 people are dead and the death toll “will get much higher” as devastating rains continue in eastern Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear said in a statement. update Friday.
Eleven of the deaths, including two children, occurred in Knott County in eastern Kentucky, the governor said.
“To all the families who know that you have already suffered a loss, we are going to grieve with you, we are going to support you and we will be there for you not just today, but tomorrow and in the weeks and years to come,” he said. Beshear.
Also Friday, President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration in the state, ordering federal aid to be sent to “areas affected by severe storms, floods, landslides and mudslides,” according to a White House press release.
Beshear said the state conducted about 50 air rescues and hundreds of boat rescues on Thursday. So far, 294 people have been rescued and 337 are in shelters, he added.
“This situation continues,” he said. “We are still in search and rescue mode and in some areas the water won’t rise until tomorrow.”
Rescue teams, assisted by the National Guard, were looking for more missing people on Friday The Associated Press.
“We have volunteers coming to help,” Jerry Stacy, the director of disaster management in Perry County, told MSNBC. “That will be our focus, and you know, people are still missing, and we’re doing everything we can to find them.”
It was not clear how many people were still missing Friday morning.
On Thursday, the state ordered the evacuation of the Panbowl Lake area in eastern Kentucky’s Breathitt County, where officials fear the dam will breach.
“We’ve already gone door to door trying to evacuate as many people as possible who are willing to go,” Beshear said. “If you’re still there, why don’t you find a friend, a family member, someone to stay with, go to a hotel – just go somewhere safe. We don’t want to lose more people than we need to.”
More than 23,000 people in the state are without power and “many counties are without water,” he added.
At least 28 state roads have been blocked due to flood damage and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews are working to clean them, according to Beshear.
“We have bridge inspectors and engineers in the field, but we can’t even get to some of these roads,” he said. “It’s so bad.”
2 to 4 inches of rain is possible in eastern Kentucky all weekend.
In Kentucky, West Virginia, parts of northeastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia and a few counties in southern Ohio, as many as 3 million people remain under flood alerts.
Beshear told NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt on Thursday that the ongoing flooding is “by far the worst flood disaster” of his life in the state.