Hundreds still unaccounted for after Kentucky floods leave at least 35 dead

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Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for following the catastrophic flash flooding which hit the US state of Kentucky last week.  

Governor Andy Beshear made the announcement as he revealed that the number of people known to have died has risen to 35.

"We've now lost 35 people and there's flooding there again right now. This is not right. I was at a breaking point the other night because that happens to all of us. It's okay not to be okay," he said at a news conference.

Commenting on the hundreds who are missing, he wouldn't be drawn on whether they are presumed dead or may be found alive.

"We just don't have a firm grasp on that. I wish we did -- there are a lot of reasons why it's nearly impossible," he said.

"But I want to make sure we're not giving either false hope or faulty information."

The rural landscape of creeks and valleys has made access to remote communities extremely difficult.

Roads have been damaged and bridges are down. Communications have also been cut, making it impossible to contact people caught up in the flooding.

The receding waters have allowed rescuers to travel down creeks by boat and recover bodies.

The governor made his comments while visiting another part of the state hit by extreme weather seven months ago.

Mayfield, Kentucky, was devastated by a series of record-breaking unseasonal tornadoes which swept across the Midwest in December.

The community of Mayfield is still rebuilding, and Mr Beshear revealed the astonishing cost of the reconstruction.

"Based on our estimates of US or Federal, state and Red Cross disaster assistance, we spent $193.4bn into the areas hit by the tornadoes," he said.

"So I know we're going to need a lot more. But I don't think we have ever seen anything like that."

Read more:
Memories and lives swept away as aftermath of Kentucky floods revealed - eyewitness

On Sunday, Mr Beshear, a Democratic Party governor of a state that is bitterly politically divided, told Sky News that he worried nothing could withstand such extreme weather.

"Whether it was a tornado or this flood, it's gonna be hard to build infrastructure that withstands it," he said.

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On climate change, global warming and the human impact on the planet, he said now was not the time for a wider debate.

"Listen, I believe in climate change, I believe it causes more devastating weather. But my job right now is to get families back together, get a roof over their head and make sure they have enough to eat and that's what I'm focused on.

"Right now, they just want help. They just want to find the relatives, and they don't want their experience to be co-opted in a larger debate."

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