Gov. Andy Beshear lamented that the number of deaths “is likely to increase” following what officials have described as unprecedented flooding in the region.
“To everyone in Eastern Kentucky, we are going to be there for you today and in the weeks, months and years ahead. We will get through this together,” Beshear said in a tweet Saturday.
The death toll is expected to rise in the coming days as rescuers search new areas that are currently impassable.
“This is a type of flood that even an area that sees flooding has never seen in our lifetime,” Beshear told CNN after returning from an aerial tour of flooding in Breathitt County on Friday. “Hundreds of homes wiped away with nothing left.”
There is no accurate account of how many people remain missing in the aftermath as cell service is out in many areas. “It’s going to be very challenging to get a good number,” the governor said.
Clay Nickels and his wife, McKenzie, spoke to CNN Saturday from their car after their home in the city of Neon, in Letcher County, was damaged two days ago.
“All of our family so far has been accounted for but we have neighbors who have not,” Clay Nickles said.
Nickles described Neon as a tight-knit community, “like Mayberry with Andy Griffith.”
“Everybody, whether they’re family or not, is like family,” he said. “In an event like this typically, if one or two people get devastated, everybody joins in to help. In this situation, everyone is devastated.”
Nickles said they will leave their car later to help with cleanup efforts.
“This is tough but we will get through this,” Nickles said. “These people were fighters and mountain people have had a lot of heart.”
Deaths have been reported in Knott, Perry, Letcher and Clay counties. Fourteen people, including four children, were confirmed dead Friday afternoon in Knott County, according to the county coroner. It was not immediately clear how that number factors into the state’s overall death toll.
The four children were siblings, according to their aunt Brandi Smith, who said the family’s mobile home became overwhelmed with floodwaters and forced the family to rush to the roof for safety. She added that her sister, Amber, and her partner tried to save their children but were unable.
“They were holding on to them. The water got so strong, it just washed them away,” Smith told CNN.
Eastern Kentucky is expected to get some relief from heavy rain Saturday. Rain is possible…