The death toll in Eastern Kentucky rose to 16 Friday morning after torrential rains flooded the area, destroying hundreds of homes and wipe out entire communities.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, in a video posted on Twittersaid children were likely included in the death count and the number is expected to rise to “probably more than double”.
“We know part of the loss will include children,” Beshear said. “We may even have lost entire families.”
Search and rescue teams, with the help of the National Guard, were looking for missing people on Friday after record flooding swept through the area. The governor declared a state of emergency.
More rain and thunderstorms were expected this weekend after more than 6 inches of rain fell Wednesday night through Thursday. National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Bonds in Jackson said it wouldn’t take much more rain to “cause even more damage.” A flood watch or warning was to remain in effect for many areas that saw the worst flooding.
‘Not seen the worst’:Death toll expected to rise in eastern Kentucky floods
Here’s what we know about the floods, rescue efforts and more.
Jimmy Pollard, executive director of the Kentucky Coroners Association, confirmed the 16th death Friday morning to the Courier Journal, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
The deaths occurred in Knott, Letcher, Clay and Perry counties, he said. Additional details were not yet available.
Beshear announced earlier Friday that the death toll had risen from 8 to 15 overnight. A press briefing was scheduled for Friday morning.
Beshear said Friday morning that it would be “difficult” to determine the number of people missing because cell service and electricity were out in the area.
More than 200 people sought refuge, Beshear said. The National Guard mobilized.
“In a nutshell, this event is devastating, and I believe it will end up being one of the most significant deadly floods we’ve had in Kentucky in at least a very long time,” Beshear said Thursday.
As of Friday morning, Beshear said the state had carried out hundreds of rescues, with about 50 air rescues and hundreds of boat rescues. The flooding left more than 23,000 Kentuckians without power and several counties without access to water, Beshear said.
While rains were reported in several parts of the state, flooding occurred in eastern Kentucky in counties near the border with Virginia and West Virginia.
The cities and towns that have been hardest hit include Hazard, Jackson, Garrett, Salyersville, Booneville, Whitesburg and the rest of Perry County.
The stretch of the Kentucky River in Jackson reached its highest level, at 43.2 feet, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson at 6 a.m. Friday. This mark broke a record set in 1939 when the river’s height reached 43.1 feet.
Beshear has asked people able to contribute to donate items or funds. Donors should focus on water and cleaning supplies for now.
Organizations have started accumulating the funds needed to send them to the families hardest hit by the floods.