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Kentucky flooding: Death toll stands at 37 as recovery efforts begin – Courier Journal

The death toll is climbing as recovery efforts continue across several Eastern Kentucky counties ransacked by last week’s historic flooding as local and state agencies, as well as national relief organizations, help residents starting to return to their homes and begin the cleanup process.

The record floodwaters have killed at least 37 people, including four children, and hundreds of Kentuckians still unaccounted for, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday. Beshear said the death toll is expected to increase over the coming days as more crews arrive to survey the damage and search along still-swollen rivers and creeks for victims.

Sunday updates:Death toll rises to 28 as more crews arrive to assist residents

President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration, allowing for use of emergency federal funding to assist recovery efforts in Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike and Wolfe counties.

Here’s the latest from reporters and photographers from The Courier Journal in the flood zone and the Louisville metro:

From the flood zone:‘I have complete peace’: Letcher County residents keep faith after Eastern Kentucky floods

6 p.m.: Death count rises to 37; donations exceed $1.8M

Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted late Monday afternoon that the death toll from the Eastern Kentucky floods that decimated 13 counties has now risen to 37.

Rescue and recovery efforts were expected to continue into Monday evening. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who spoke about the flooding on the Senate floor Monday, said in a news release that more than 1,400 people have been rescued from the floodwaters, with nearly half being rescued by air pickup.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the establishment of a donation drive on Monday set to take place on Wednesday at Metro Hall at 527 W. Jefferson Street in Louisville from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“We are only beginning to understand the extent of the destruction, and yet so many Louisvillians are stepping up and asking how they can help,” he said in a news release. “We’ve been in contact with one of our incredible community partners, SOS International, who has been on the ground in Whitesburg, to learn how our compassionate community can help the residents of Eastern Kentucky.”

In Fischer’s release, he said the Whitesburg Medical Clinic, where this drive’s donations will be headed via SOS International, is in need of at least 3,000 of the following items:

  • Soap, body wash, bath wipes and facial tissues
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hairbrushes and combs
  • Disposable razors and shaving cream
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • First aid kits and items included in first aid kits
  • Fans and dehumidifiers
  • Hand sanitizer

Fischer asked for donations to be limited to the items above as to bring the people of Eastern Kentucky exactly what they need.

As of late Monday afternoon, the Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund to help those devastated by the flooding has received $1,872,149 from more than 14,000 donors.

If you would like to donate to the relief fund, you can do so here.

3 p.m.: More rainfall forecast in the Southeast

More rain is expected to hit Eastern Kentucky on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

A tweet from the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky, said another round of heavy rain and thunderstorms will be moving into the area Monday night. Counties like Breathitt, Perry, Clay, Knott and Letcher counties are all still under a flood watch.

Kentucky flooding:Where is the flooding in Eastern Kentucky? See photos, drone videos of the devastation

Scattered showers have a 30% to 50% chance of hitting the region Monday. That rises to 50% to 80% Monday evening with strong to severe storms with wind damage possible in the region.

Going into Tuesday, chances of a scattered thunderstorm drop to 20% to 50%.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear released a video on Twitter signaling more rain and isolated flash flood plus damaging winds potentially coming to the hard-hit area.

“Eastern Kentucky, we are praying for you.” he tweeted. “To our first responders continuing search and rescue efforts, thank you for your bravery and commitment to our people.”

“Isolated flash flooding and damaging winds are possible and we urge everyone in hard-hit areas to seek shelter on higher ground,” Beshear said in a tweet.

1:30 p.m.: Death toll climbs to 35 as rescue and recovery efforts continue

At least 35 people have now been confirmed dead following the flooding that devastated Eastern Kentucky last week, officials say.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed the new death toll in a Tweet published Monday afternoon.

“Pray for these families and for those who are missing,” he said.

Beshear has also requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency to being providing individual assistance for residents in Floyd, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley and Pike counties.

Beshear announced earlier Monday that a mobile FEMA office had been opened in the region. Renters and homeowners in Breathitt, Clay, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties have already been approved to begin applying for individual disaster assistance.

People affected by the floods can apply online at disasterassistance.gov, by calling 800-621-3362 or by using the FEMA mobile app.

Meanwhile, nighttime curfews were declared in response to reports of looting in two of the devastated communities — Breathitt County and the nearby city of Hindman in Knott County, The Associated Press reported.

Breathitt County declared a countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., County Attorney Brendon Miller said Sunday evening in a Facebook post. The only exceptions were for emergency vehicles, first responders, and people traveling for work.

“I hate to have to impose a curfew, but looting will absolutely not be tolerated. Our friends and neighbors have lost so much. We cannot stand by and allow them to lose what they have left,” the post said.

Hindman Mayor Tracy Neice also announced a sunset-to-sunrise curfew because of looting, television station WYMT reported. Both curfews will remain in place until further notice, officials said.

9 a.m.: Gov. Andy Beshear confirms deaths of 30 Kentuckians to flooding

At least 30 people have now been confirmed dead due to the flooding in eastern Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear announced during a news conference Monday morning.

“That’s going to grow. We know about additional bodies beyond these 30 confirmed,” he said.

Beshear said the current county-by-county death toll stands at the following:

  • Breathitt County: 7
  • Clay County: 2
  • Knott County: 16
  • Letcher County: 2
  • Perry County: 3

Many more residents remain missing, he said, and search efforts continue to find those people.

“There are hundreds of unaccounted people for (at a) minimum, and we just don’t have a firm grasp on that. I wish we did,” Beshear said. “I want to make sure we’re not giving false hope or faulty information.”

The governor also said that he was canceling his trip to Israel.

“While that is a bucket list type of thing, I cannot be overseas while the people of Eastern Kentucky are suffering. And we’re still going be at a critical stage over the coming weeks,” he said. “I promised people yesterday that I was gonna be there for them today, tomorrow and in the coming weeks and I’m going to keep that promise.”

Beshear said he believes it will take millions of dollars to restore homes and repair infrastructure that was lost in eastern Kentucky counties.

At least 150 people are being sheltered at state parks, Beshear said, and there is at least that number at American Red Cross shelters as well.

At least 12,000 people in the region are without power in the region, but cellular service is returning to the area. Local carrier Appalachian Wireless is reporting its coverage area has been completely restored, Beshear said.

Rain is still expected in Floyd, Magoffin, Knott and Pike counties, which have been under a flash flood warning anticipated to end Monday, but there is still severe storm potential today in all affected areas, he said. High winds that could knock down poles or trees are also a threat.

Beshear said volunteers in Hazard, some of whom had lost their own homes, were an “incredible ray of light” in the “midst of darkness” while describing what he saw on a tour of the region’s damage.

“When Mr. Rogers says look for the helpers, these are the helpers,” he said about responders in the area giving out donations at an emergency West Perry school turned shelter.

“These are amazing folks. They’re hurting but they’re strong, and it’s amazing to see how they’re helping each other even if they got nothing left,” Beshear said.

5 a.m.: UK basketball announces fundraiser for affected victims

The Kentucky men’s basketball team will host an open practice at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Tuesday to raise money for relief efforts in Eastern Kentucky, team officials announced Sunday.

Gates will open at the arena at 5 p.m. The team will also co-host a telethon with WLEX-TV from 5-8 p.m.

Both events will benefit the American Red Cross.

In a tweet Sunday, Kentucky coach John Calipari said his team came to him after the flooding in Eastern Kentucky and “had an idea to help,” calling this week’s fundraisers “a player-driven initiative.”

“We recognize that our state is hurting and our team wanted to do anything we could to do to step up and help,” freshman guard Cason Wallace said in a video announcing the fundraisers.

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