HAZARD, Ky. — Four days into the flooding disaster after record rainfall in Eastern Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state and region are still in rescue and recovery mode to find missing people and identify the dead.
At a news conference at the Perry County Courthouse on Sunday morning, Beshear confirmed there are 26 Kentuckians who have died in the area as a result of flooding. There are bodies, he said, they are still processing and will be for days to come.
“This is the most devastating and deadly flooding event in my lifetime,” he said. “ ... Those are 26 children of God that will be missed by their community and are loved. We are going to be there with those families as they grieve,” he said.
Local officials are still working to identify missing people with many coming into nearby police stations to bring pictures of loved ones they have not heard from.
Beshear said there is no way to confirm an exact number of those who are missing right now.
“In between still spotty cell phone service and getting back up and running, we are not having a firm count to begin with,” he said. “This is something we will be working on for weeks to come.”
When questioned about climate change and its role in the latest Kentucky disaster, Beshear said he hadn’t spoken about “something he believed in” yet because there were still hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people with “nothing at the moment.”
“We are still finding bodies,” he said. “To talk to parents who have lost children about solar panels, they don’t want to talk about that right now. Right now our job is to find those that are missing, our job is to help families suffering, and we can have that larger conversation later.”
He spoke about the physical devastation and called it “incredible.”
“People are losing not only their houses and all their possessions. Our infrastructure, roads and bridges,” he began. “Our bridges are so important in this community and they are about whether you can access not only your house, but so many critical services.”