The death toll after widespread and catastrophic flooding in eastern Kentucky has risen to 26 people.
“Our death toll right now is at 26, but I know of several additional bodies, and we know it’s going to grow with the level of water,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during an appearance “Meet the Press” Sunday.
“We’re going to be finding bodies for weeks. Many of them swept hundreds of yards, maybe a quarter mile plus from where they were lost. Thus far, just those four children, I fear that will find at least a couple more as well.
Beshear noted that cellphone service remained “incredibly spotty” and that multiple state police posts were taking calls from loved ones still looking for missing loved one, so it will “take some time to get a firm grasp” on total numbers.
In a Saturday news conference, the emotional governor told reporters that the deaths were spread across five counties, with some families having lost almost everyone in their household.
In addition, he said the number of children among the dead is believed to now be just four, instead of the six initially reported.
“The original two children that were reported to us … turned out to be adults,” he explained, noting that numbers would continuously fluctuate.
Search and rescue efforts continued on Friday, with teams backed by the National Guard. Hundreds have already been rescued, according to the governor.
Beshear viewed the devastation from a helicopter on Friday. His initial plans to tour the disaster area had been postponed due to unsafe conditions at an airport where he was to land.
More than 330 people have sought shelter from the flooding, with homes completely underwater and vehicles trashed.
There are 15 emergency shelters that are currently active.
Mudslides also impacted roadways and Beshear said parts of at least 28 state roads were blocked.
More than 18,000 Kentucky residents were still without power on Saturday afternoon.
Water outages were also reported by the governor’s office, with systems in Jackson and Fleming-Neon non-operational and more than 20 other systems with limited operations.
At least 14 counties and three cities have declared local states of emergency.
President Biden declared a federal disaster and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell said the agency would bring whatever resources were necessary to support search and recovery efforts.
Parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8-10.5 inches over 48 hours, but some waterways were not expected to crest until Saturday.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Jackson wrote that the area will start to dry out through the day on Saturday, but that dry weather was expected to end on Sunday afternoon.
Scientists say that extreme rain events have become more common due to climate change.
Beshear also warned Saturday that it was going to get “really hot” in Kentucky next week.
“If you’re able to hear us in Eastern Kentucky, we love you, and we’re going to make it,” he said in a previous statement.
“We’ve been through so much these last few years. We’re going to stand next to you, now and in the years to come. We’ll get through this together,” he pledged.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.