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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll in the catastrophic flooding rose Thursday afternoon to 39.
“We have more difficult news in Eastern Kentucky. The official flood toll has now risen to 39, with an additional loss in Breathitt County,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I ask the Commonwealth to join me in praying for our fellow Kentucky people during this difficult time,” he said.
The death toll includes the loss of Knott County High School student Aaron “Mick” Crawford, who died after assisting with cleanup efforts.
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His mother, Ronda Crawford, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that her son “went into cardiac arrest,” but the family still doesn’t know what caused her son’s death.
In addition, two people are still missing: Nancy Cundiff, 29, and Vanessa Baker, 60, both from Breathitt County.
Authorities are asking anyone with information about either woman to contact the Kentucky State Police in Hazard at 606-435-6069.
The state is moving from an emergency phase to what Beshear’s office called a “stabilization phase.”
“I see our response to this flood in three phases: emergency, stabilization and reconstruction,” he said in a statement. “It was the most devastating and deadliest flood our republic has seen in my lifetime. But the good news is that we are probably out of the emergency phase of the response to this disaster. We are now entering the stabilization phase, then we can start rebuilding.”
A total of 1,334 rescues were carried out between July 28 and August 2 by the Kentucky National Guard, Tennessee National Guard, West Virginia National Guard, Kentucky State Police and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources of Kentucky.
Hundreds of Kentucky residents displaced by the floods were staying in trailers, state parks and mass shelters.
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The Kentucky National Guard distributed nearly 39,094 water bottles and 43,882 meals.
Some water supply and sewage systems were not operational.
More than 225 trucks loaded with debris were removed from six counties.
Beshear said FEMA is turning down too many requests for assistance.
The governor said he has raised his concerns with President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and top FEMA administrators.
FEMA press secretary Jeremy Edwards said late Thursday that agency staff would be in the flood-hit area “as long as it takes” to help Kentuckians recover. Edwards said the agency’s management is working to “reduce barriers and reduce red tape.”
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“If you’ve been denied help, it’s not necessarily the end of the road,” he said. “Something as simple as a missing document can render an application ineligible. The system isn’t perfect, and we know bureaucracy can be frustrating.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.