At least 15 people died as a result of torrential rains that caused immense flooding on Thursday in the eastern US state of Kentucky, and the toll is expected to rise further.
The worst floods in recent history
“It’s appalling. The number of Kentucky residents we’ve lost now stands at 15, and should at least double again. And it will also include children,” Governor Andy Beshear said early Friday morning as more rains were expected. “This is going to turn out to be the worst flooding in recent history, devastating and deadly,” he previously said.
In the Jackson area, some roads have become rivers, with abandoned cars here and there. At the bottom of these small valleys surrounded by forests, the land was flooded Thursday with light brown muddy water that only left the roofs of buildings and trees protruding in some places.
In these conditions, many residents took refuge on the roofs of their houses, waiting to be rescued. “Between 20 and 30” were evacuated by air, Mr. Beshear said Thursday at the end of the day on a local television channel.
With human-induced global warming, the atmosphere contains more water vapour, increasing the chances of heavy rainfall events, scientists say. These rains, associated with other factors linked in particular to land development, promote flooding.
Parts of Kentucky received about 20 centimeters of rain in 24 hours, and significant further precipitation is expected through Friday evening, and the flood alert has been maintained.
The Democratic governor declared a state of emergency in a handful of counties, and four National Guard helicopters, as well as rigid inflatable boats, were deployed to help with relief operations.
Evacuation by boat
Near Jackson, rescue workers were evacuating residents wearing life jackets in a small boat from an area where the Kentucky River has largely burst its banks, flooding many homes several feet deep. ‘water.
A little further on, a couple were trying to salvage what they could of their flooded house by cramming furniture into their large pick-up truck.
The number of missing people is not known because “we still can’t access some places” due to strong currents, the governor said. “A lot of people need help,” the governor said earlier. “And we’re doing our best to reach every single one of them. »
But “the situation is difficult,” he acknowledged. “Hundreds of people are going to lose their homes and this is going to be a new event requiring not months, but probably years, for families to rebuild and recover. »
Some 25,000 people were without electricity Thursday, some without running water, in the state, he said.
President Joe Biden has been kept informed of the situation, his spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. The head of the US Disaster Management Agency (FEMA), Deanne Criswell, is due to go there on Friday.