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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that the death toll in catastrophic flooding had risen on Thursday afternoon to 39.
“We have more tough news out of eastern Kentucky. The official death toll from the flooding has now risen to 39, with an additional loss being counted in Breathitt County,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I ask the commonwealth to join me in praying for our fellow Kentuckians 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.
His mother, Ronda Crawford, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that her son “went into cardiac arrest,” but the family still does not know what caused her son’s death.
In addition, there are two people who are still reported missing: 29-year-old Nancy Cundiff and 60-year-old Vanessa Baker, both of whom are from Breathitt County.
Authorities ask that anyone with any information about either woman contact 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 flooding in three phases: emergency, stabilization and rebuilding,” he said in a statement. “This was the most devastating and deadly flooding our commonwealth has experienced in my lifetime. But the good news is, we are likely out of the emergency phase of responding to this disaster. Now we move into the stabilization phase, and then we can start rebuilding.”
A total of 1,334 rescues were completed between July 28 and Aug. 2 by the Kentucky National Guard, the Tennessee National Guard, the West Virginia National Guard, the Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Hundreds of Kentucky residents displaced by the flooding were staying in travel trailers, state parks and congregate shelters.
The Kentucky National Guard has distributed nearly 39,094 bottles of water and 43,882 meals.
Some water systems and wastewater systems were non-operational.
More than 225 truckloads of debris have been removed from six counties.
Beshear has said that FEMA is denying too many requests for assistance.
The governor said he conveyed his concerns to President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and top FEMA administrators.
FEMA Press Secretary Jeremy Edwards said Thursday night that agency personnel will be in the flood-stricken region “as long as it takes” to help Kentuckians recover. Edwards said the agency’s leadership is working to “reduce barriers and cut red tape.”
“If you were denied assistance, that is not necessarily the end of the road,” he said. “Something as simple as a missing document can cause an application to be deemed ineligible. The system isn’t perfect, and we know that the bureaucracy can be frustrating.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.