Death toll remains stable, relief efforts continue

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STAFF REPORTS

Fatalities from flooding that began in eastern Kentucky last week remained at 37 on Wednesday as attention shifts from search and rescue to restoring services and helping people to rebuild their lives.

In response, Governor Andy Beshear dispatched the Kentucky National Guard to the affected area.

More than 400 National Guard troops have been dispatched to the area, performing a variety of roles including search and rescue missions, assisting local law enforcement and providing water as many areas have seen their water service interrupted and their installations destroyed.

A total of 2,404 cases of water had been delivered by 8 a.m. Wednesday, Beshear said. “But I guarantee there will be a lot more, because we’re moving the water as fast as we can.”

Weather remains a concern in the area, but now the concern is heat, not rain.

Daytime temps in the high 90s and humid conditions make it much hotter than the temperature would indicate, and that’s a problem for people who don’t have enough water and no electricity.

“The biggest concern we have is the weather,” Beshear said. “It is very, very hot. Highs should be in the 90’s. Combined with the moist air mass this is going to make it much warmer. The heat index will be over 100 degrees in some places, which is why we have set up eight cooling centers in these areas. If you don’t have electricity, if you don’t have a nice place, go to one of the centres.

Cooling centers are located in Breathitt, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Perry, Pike and Wolfe counties.

A week after floodwaters consumed parts of Appalachia, rescue missions were winding down as supplies poured in in what is shaping up to be a massive relief effort. Floodwaters destroyed homes and businesses, and some escaped the stormy waters with only the clothes they were wearing.

In Breathitt County, plans have been drawn up to deliver supplies on foot to areas where roads have been washed out.

More than 1,300 people were rescued and crews were still trying to reach some people cut off by floods or mudslides. About 5,000 customers were still without power in eastern Kentucky, the governor said. Emergency shelters and state parks in the area housed hundreds of residents who fled destroyed or badly damaged homes. Many others are hosted by relatives and friends.

While hundreds of people were initially missing across the 13 flood-ravaged counties, people have been encouraged to call the Kentucky State Police Station in the area of ​​their loved ones so soldiers can check on them. due to power and cellphone outages. Following more than 1,000 wellness checks, as well as efforts to restore electricity and cellphone service, Beshear said the number has now dropped to three.

“We are very worried about them,” he said. “All three are women from Breathitt County.”

Initial expenditures from a relief fund opened by the Governor were distributed to pay the funeral expenses of flood victims.

While there were more than 30,000 people without power at the height of the flooding, the governor said that number has now fallen to 5,068. The largest remaining outages are 1,460 in Breathitt County, 1 068 in Knott County and 2,268 in Perry County.

Transport Cabinet teams have inspected 84% of the approximately 1,100 bridges in the affected area. Of the 21 bridges still impassable, four are state bridges and 17 are county bridges. While state roads have been cleared, Beshear says the Cabinet is helping on county roads, with crews from as far away as Paducah.

Due to the extent of the damage, the governor said he discussed with state lawmakers a special session to appropriate the stimulus funds, as the state had a surplus of nearly $1 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30, plus more than that amount. unspent in the biennial state budget approved by the General Assembly in the spring.

“I anticipate that’s something we’ll need,” he said, “and work on before any special session. We’re going to need a package like the SAFE Act.

This was enacted by the legislature to help recover from the deadly December tornado outbreak in western Kentucky last year.

Beshear also said the increased presence of law enforcement has led to a reduction in looting in the affected area.

“Looting, stealing from people who have lost everything, is the worst part of humanity, and it’s hard to believe anyone can sink that low. It’s the same with the scam. People don’t have money, and taking what little they have is horrible. We won’t allow it; law enthe force will catch and pursue all looters to the fullest extent of the law. Look, if you know our state and our people, maybe you’re lucky if law enforcement finds you, if you’re willing to sink that low.

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