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‘Double-digit’ loss of life expected as flash floods hit Kentucky, prompting emergency rescues

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At least eight people have died following Intense storms which dropped inches of rain and prompted rapid flooding in parts of eastern Kentucky.

Officials report rescues as people evacuated flooded homes.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on Thursday morning, calling it “one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history.”

At a briefing on Thursday, Mr Beshear said that he expects “double-digit” loss of life. More rain is expected tonight. Among those killed by the storm was an 81-year-old woman, the governor said.

“What we are going to see coming out of this is massive property damage and we expect loss of life,” Governor Beshear said in a statement. “Hundreds will lose their homes. And this will be yet another event that will take not months, but years, for our families to rebuild and recover from.”

Early Thursday morning, Breathitt County emergency officials said that some roads were too flooded for rescue crews to reach some areas.

The Perry County Advocate has reported that fire departments have helped people escape homes as flood waters surrounded them.

Mr Beshear said that people have been seen waiting on roofs and in trees for rescue, while some areas that are too inaccessible for utility crews to reach in efforts to restore power.

A home tips in floodwaters in Lost Creek, Kentucky on Thursday (AP)
A home tips in floodwaters in Lost Creek, Kentucky on Thursday (AP)

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flood warning for some areas through Friday morning. Up to eight inches (15cm) of rain have fallen in some parts, and more rain is expected Thursday night and on Friday.

Flood watches are in place for much of Kentucky, West Virginia and the southwest corner of Virginia, most of which sits in rural areas of the Appalachian Mountains.

The weather service has warned people not to drive through flooded roads. Poweroutage.us is reporting more than 20,000 outages in eastern Kentucky.

Aerial image of a flooded residential area in Quicksand, Kentucky, as homes are surrounded by intense floodwaters (AP)
Aerial image of a flooded residential area in Quicksand, Kentucky, as homes are surrounded by intense floodwaters (AP)

A study published earlier this year found that flash flooding is likely to become more common in many parts of the US as the climate crisis grows. Warmer temperatures can drive more intense rainstorms, which can deluge an area quickly and lead to rapid-onset floodwaters.

Earlier this week, intense flash floods hit St. Louis and surrounding areas of Missouri, and flash floods struck in southwest Virginia – nearby today’s flooding – just a few weeks ago. In June, intense flooding hit Yellowstone National Park after intense rain and snowmelt.

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