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More rain hits Appalachian communities where 30 people died in flooding

Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for and the death toll is expected to rise.

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Homes are flooded by Lost Creek, Ky., on Thursday, July 28, 2022. Heavy rains have caused flash flooding and mudslides as storms pound parts of central Appalachia. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

Homes are flooded by Lost Creek, Ky., on Thursday, July 28, 2022. Heavy rains have caused flash flooding and mudslides as storms pound parts of central Appalachia. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

Homes are flooded by Lost Creek, Ky., on Thursday, July 28, 2022. Heavy rains have caused flash flooding and mudslides as storms pound parts of central Appalachia. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

Another round of storms have hit flooded Appalachian mountain communities where more than 30 people were killed, and search and rescue teams have found more bodies.

Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for and the death toll of 30 will rise, said Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, who noted that bodies that are not yet part of the official death count have been recovered.

More than 12,000 customers remain without power, many because their homes and businesses have been destroyed or are not fit for habitation. Shelters are housing at least 300 people.

The floods were unleashed last week when between 8in and 10.5in of rain fell in just 48 hours in parts of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia and western Virginia.

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A bridge near the Whitesburg Recycling Centre in Letcher County, Kentucky (Ryan C Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/AP)

A bridge near the Whitesburg Recycling Centre in Letcher County, Kentucky (Ryan C Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/AP)

A bridge near the Whitesburg Recycling Centre in Letcher County, Kentucky (Ryan C Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/AP)

Radar indicated up to 4in of rain fell Sunday, and the National Weather Service warned that slow-moving showers and thunderstorms could provoke more flash flooding through to Tuesday morning

“If things weren’t hard enough on the people of this region, they’re getting rain right now,” Mr Beshear said on Monday.

“Just as concerning is high winds – think about how saturated the ground has been – it could knock over poles, it could knock over trees, so people need to be careful. And it’s even going to get tougher when the rain stops. It’s going to get really hot, and we need to make sure people are ultimately stable by that point.”

Among the lives, homes and businesses swept away in the floods was some of the region’s irreplaceable history. Appalshop, a cultural centre known for chronicling Appalachian life for the rest of the world, was assessing damage at its repository of Appalachian history and culture, where historic documents and artifacts were flushed out of the building.

Mr Beshear said he saw while touring the disaster area on Sunday how people have been helping their neighbours.

“These are amazing folks. They’re hurting, but they’re strong. And it’s amazing to see them helping each other, even when they’ve got nothing left,” he said.

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General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the US National Guard Bureau, said on Sunday that about 400 people had been rescued by helicopter. “In light of the devastation, the response is going pretty well,” he said.

The governor cancelled a trip to Israel that had been scheduled for later this week, saying: “I cannot be overseas while the people of eastern Kentucky are suffering.”

Night-time curfews have been declared in response to reports of looting in two of the devastated communities — Breathitt County and the nearby city of Hindman in Knott County.

Breathitt County Judge Executive Jeff Noble declared a countywide curfew from 10pm to 6am, county attorney Brendon Miller said on Sunday evening. The only exceptions will be for emergency vehicles, first responders and people traveling for work.

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Lost Creek, Kentucky (Ryan C Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/AP)

Lost Creek, Kentucky (Ryan C Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/AP)

Lost Creek, Kentucky (Ryan C Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/AP)

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

Hindman mayor Tracy Neice also also announced a curfew on Sunday night, from sunset to sunrise, due to “excessive looting”, WYMT-TV reported.

Both curfews will remain in place until further notice, officials said.

President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster last week to direct relief money to flooded counties, and sent Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to co-ordinate directly in the recovery.

Last week’s flooding extended to West Virginia, where governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six southern counties, and to Virginia, where governor Glenn Youngkin also made an emergency declaration that enabled officials to mobilise resources across the flooded south-west portion of the state.


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