Eastern Kentucky flood disaster deepens

The death toll from the devastating flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last week has risen to 37, the state’s governor confirmed late Monday, with hundreds still to be found. Gov. Andy Beshear said refrigeration trucks are serving as mobile morgues to house bodies before they are transported to the medical examiner’s office in the state capital of Frankfort.

“We’re going to keep finding bodies for weeks, many of them moved hundreds of yards, maybe even a quarter mile or more from where they were last seen,” Beshear told CNN earlier in the week.

Efforts to find those still alive or recover bodies are hampered by high temperatures and the threat of another return of severe storms, which could bring more rain, strong winds and flash flooding.

Scores of bridges have already been destroyed, entire towns are under water and tens of thousands of residents of the mountainous region are still without electricity, clean water or connections to cellular networks. The governor said clean water was a priority and also confirmed that 12,000 state residents still had no power as of Monday.

A Bowling Creek flood-damaged home in Breathitt County (Facebook Johnny Feltner)

At the same time, the resources provided by state and federal authorities are wholly inadequate. Few shelters have been established and many are sleeping either in their vehicles or on the ground. Only 14 emergency shelters are open, helping 483 people. Several displaced residents are also taking shelter in state parks, schools, churches and community centers.

Many residents rely on charity for food and help from neighbors and volunteers. Few, if any, residents have flood insurance to fix homes that have been inundated with water and mud or removed from their foundations, washed downstream and broken to pieces.

The victims that have been identified range from children to retired octogenarians. Among the dead are four children of the Noble–Madison family, 8; Riley Jr., 6; Neveah, 4; Chance, 2 – who were taken from their parents’ arms by the water in Knott County.

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