- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
At least 15 people have died in record floods that wiped out entire communities in the state of Kentucky, with authorities fearing the toll could double and include children.
US rescue teams are scouring for people as floodwaters destroyed homes, businesses and vehicles and left many residents without electricity.
Emergency crews made close to 50 air rescues and hundreds of water rescues on Thursday, and more people still needed help, Governor Andy Beshear said.
“It is devastating,” he told CNN before touring the disaster area.
“Our number of Kentuckians we’ve lost is now at 15. I expect it to more than double. And it’s going to include some children.”
While floodwaters receded in places after peaking on Thursday, the National Weather Service said flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall remained possible through Friday evening.
“Places where there were mobile homes and houses, there’s nothing there now ... It’s unbelievable to see,” Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director in Kentucky’s hard-hit Perry County said.
“You get 8in of rain in three hours, it’s just not anything that we have ever seen - ever, here.”
Determining the number of people unaccounted for is tough with phone services and electricity out across the disaster area.
He said: “This is so widespread, it’s a challenge on even local officials to put that number together.”
More than 200 people have sought shelter, Mr Beshear said. He deployed National Guard soldiers to the hardest-hit areas.
Three parks set up shelters, and with property damage so extensive, the governor opened an online portal for donations to the victims.
President Joe Biden called to express his support for what will be a lengthy recovery effort, Mr Beshear said, predicting it will take more than a year to fully rebuild.
The storm sent water gushing from hillsides and surging out of streambeds, inundating roads and forcing rescue crews to use helicopters and boats to reach trapped people.
Flooding also damaged parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia, across a region where poverty is endemic.
“There are hundreds of families that have lost everything,” Mr Beshear said. “And many of these families didn’t have much to begin with. And so it hurts even more. But we’re going to be there for them.”