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Death toll rises in Kentucky floods as governor warns it will 'more than double'

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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced early Friday that the death toll from this week's historic flooding has risen to 15 while warning that the figure is expected to more than double — and will include children.

“We have now lost at least 15 Kentuckians,” Beshear said in a video message posted online. “That number is going to grow, probably more than double. We know some of the lost will include children. We may have even lost entire families.”

Beshear said the search continues for residents who may have been trapped by the rising floodwaters, which have yet to crest in some areas.

An aerial view shows homes submerged under floodwaters from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
An aerial view shows homes submerged under floodwaters from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday. (Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images)

Nearly 50 air rescues and hundreds of boat rescues were conducted on Thursday, he said. “This situation is ongoing,” Beshear said. “We are still in the search and rescue mode.”

An estimated 23,000 people remain without power, and many counties in the eastern part of the state are without water.

[Also read: How to help victims of Kentucky floods]

The governor said the state will need water and cleaning supplies, and those who wish to donate can do so through the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.

“It's going to be a tough couple days,” Beshear said. “And then it's going to be a long rebuild. But we are tough enough. We'll make it. Let's stick together. Let's help out our fellow human beings.”

James Jacobs signals to a National Guard helicopter flying overhead following a day of heavy rain in Garrett, Ky., Thursday.
James Jacobs signals to a National Guard helicopter flying overhead in Garrett, Ky., on Thursday. (Pat McDonogh/USA Today Network via Reuters)

The flooding began Tuesday, when up to 12 inches of rain fell in western Kentucky. At its peak, the rain fell in some locations at a rate of 5 inches per hour. The National Weather Service said the chances of that much rain falling there were 1 in 1,000 in any given year.

The extreme rain continued in the eastern part of the state on Wednesday, turning Appalachian towns into raging rivers that swept away homes. As much as 14 inches of rain were recorded in Perry County, and it was still falling on Thursday evening.

On Friday morning, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Kentucky and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

Beshear and Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), went on an aerial tour the flooded communities in a National Guard helicopter on Friday afternoon.

"As governor, I've seen a lot," Beshear said of the devastation. "This is by far the worst."

Homes along Gross Loop are flooded with water from the North Fork of the Kentucky River on Thursday.
Homes along Gross Loop are flooded with water from the North Fork of the Kentucky River on Thursday. (Arden S. Barnes/Washington Post via Getty Images)
Members of the Winchester, Ky., Fire Department walk inflatable boats across floodwaters in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
Members of the Winchester, Ky., Fire Department walk inflatable boats across floodwaters in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
A truck drives along a flooded road in Breathitt County, Ky., on Thursday.
A truck drives along a flooded road in Breathitt County, Ky., on Thursday. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
Lewis Ritchie pulls a kayak through the water after delivering groceries to his father-in-law near Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
Lewis Ritchie pulls a kayak through the water after delivering groceries to his father-in-law near Jackson, Ky., on Thursday. (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)
An abandoned pickup truck is seen submerged under floodwaters in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
An abandoned pickup truck submerged under floodwaters in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday. (Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images)
Home and structures are seen surrounded by floodwaters near Quicksand, Ky., on Thursday.
Home and structures surrounded by floodwaters near Quicksand, Ky., on Thursday. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
A man observes a car partially submerged by floodwaters in Garrett, Ky., on Thursday.
A man observes a partially submerged car in Garrett, Ky., on Thursday. (Pat McDonogh/USA Today Network via Reuters)
Homes are seen submerged in Lost Creek, Ky., on Thursday.
Homes submerged in Lost Creek, Ky., on Thursday. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
Men ride in a boat along a flooded road in Breathitt County, Ky., on Thursday.
Men ride in a boat along a flooded road in Breathitt County, Ky., on Thursday. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
A home is submerged under floodwaters in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
A home is submerged under floodwaters in Jackson, Ky. (Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images)
A group of stranded people are rescued from the floodwaters in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
A group of stranded people are rescued from the floodwaters in Jackson, Ky. (Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images)
An aerial view of homes submerged under floodwaters from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Ky., on Thursday.
An aerial view of homes submerged under floodwaters from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Ky. (Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images)
Tonya Smith, whose trailer was washed away by flooding, reaches for food from her mother, Ollie Jean Johnson, to give to Smith's father, Paul Johnson, as they use a rope to hang on over a swollen Grapevine Creek in Perry County, Ky., on Thursday.
Tonya Smith, whose trailer was washed away by flooding, reaches for food from her mother, Ollie Jean Johnson, to give to Smith's father, Paul Johnson, as they use a rope to hang on over a swollen creek in Perry County, Ky. (Matt Stone/USA Today Network via Reuters)
A car is submerged in floodwaters along Right Beaver Creek in Garrett, Ky., on Thursday.
A car is submerged in floodwaters along Right Beaver Creek in Garrett, Ky. (Pat McDonogh/USA Today Network via Reuters)
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