Suben a 15 los fallecidos por inundaciones en Kentucky / Death toll climbs to 15 in Kentucky floods, governor says

WASHINGTON.- El número de muertos por las inundaciones en el centro y este de Kentucky (EEUU), ascendió a quince personas, según indicó este viernes el gobernador de ese Estado, Andy Beshear.

El gobernador dijo que entre los fallecidos hay ancianos y «probablemente niños», y advirtió de que esta cifra subirá y podría ser «ser más del doble».

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, anunció esta mañana la declaración de Kentucky como zona de «desastre mayor» para confirmar la ayuda federal que el Gobierno del país dará al estado para hacer frente a estas inundaciones, informó la Casa Blanca en un comunicado.

Al amanecer de este viernes, según el Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (NWS), el tramo del río Kentucky en la ciudad de Jackson alcanzó la cota más alta jamás registrada con 13 metros, superando un récord establecido en 1939.

Beshear declaró el jueves el estado de emergencia en todo Kentucky y hoy las advertencias de inundaciones siguen en efecto para la mayor parte de la región.

La orden de Beshear incluye la movilización de tropas de la Guardia Nacional de Kentucky para el uso de camiones y helicópteros en el socorro de personas atrapadas por las aguas desmadradas.

Muchas personas han quedado atrapadas por las aguas en las azoteas de sus casas y en los árboles, de acuerdo con la estación local WHAS11 de televisión.

«La cifra de muertos sigue creciendo», dijo el gobernador, «y muchas familias allí han perdido absolutamente todo».

En la noche del jueves, las autoridades de Kentucky recomendaron a la población que evacuara sus casas en torno al Lago Panbowl, cerca de Jackson debido a la crecida de las aguas del río Kentucky y «una descarga de fango» observada cerca de la presa del lago.

Los meteorólogos pronostican para hoy otra serie de lluvias en el área anegada por los torrentes que han descendido de las montañas y henchido los ríos y arroyos en Appalachia. Las aguas que se han desbocado, dañaron puentes e inundado casas, negocios y carreteras.

En la localidad de Whitesburg, las aguas anegaron Appalshop, un centro de artes y educación renombrado por la promoción y preservación de la historia y la cultura de la región.

Las autoridades dieron cuenta de crecidas rápidas en ríos y arroyos en el este de Kentucky, el oeste de Virginia y el sur de Virginia Occidental, áreas afectadas por las tormentas en los últimos días.

Según la plataforma PowerOutage.us, esta mañana había 24.157 hogares y negocios en Kentucky sin suministro de energía eléctrica, y otros 6.789 en la misma situación en Virginia.

Jerry Stacy, director de Gestión de Emergencias en el Condado Perry, en el este de Kentucky, describió las inundaciones como «un acontecimiento catastrófico».

«Hay inundaciones repentinas y aluviones casi en todas partes», señaló Stacy.

EFE

JACKSON, KY – JULY, 28: Homes along Gross Loop off of KY-15 are flooded with water from the North Fork of the Kentucky River. (Photo by Arden S. Barnes/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Death toll climbs to 15 in Kentucky floods, governor says

July 29 (Reuters) – The death toll in eastern Kentucky rose to 15 on Friday as floodwaters swept through homes, washed out roads and pushed waterways over their banks, Governor Andy Beshear said, warning that more fatalities were expected.

The National Guard and the State Police used helicopters and boats to rescue dozens of people from homes and vehicles in Kentucky’s eastern coal-mining region. Video footage from local media showed floodwaters reaching the roofs of houses and turning roads into rivers.

“We have lost at least 15 Kentuckians, though that number is going to grow, probably more than double,” Beshear said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that 23,000 homes and businesses were without power.

“This situation is ongoing. We are still in the search-and-rescue mode,” Beshear said. “It’s going to be a tough couple of days. It’s going to be a long rebuild. We are tough enough. We’re going to make it.”

At least 300 people have been reported rescued by emergency crews, Beshear said at a morning news conference. That number will likely climb, he said, considering that more than 100 people alone have been saved in National Guard airlifts.

In Garrett, Kentucky, a coal-mining town about 125 miles (201 km) east of Lexington, brown floodwaters swirled through a commercial street and backed up against storefronts, video clips showed. Rescue boats carried people wearing life jackets along the submerged street, past the tops of vehicles poking through the high water.

“Everything is gone,” Garrett resident Rachel Patton told WCHS-TV as she cried. “We had to swim out and it was cold. It was over my head. It was scary.”

Authorities went door-to-door on Thursday in a low-lying area in Jackson, Kentucky, a town of 2,200 people, ordering them to evacuate after inspectors noticed a discharge from the nearby Panbowl Lake Dam.

“Late last night and early this morning, we thought that a real breach was imminent; we are hoping that’s not the case. We were actually a little bit more optimistic but still concerned,” Beshear said on Friday.

Flood warnings and watches remained in effect throughout the day for the eastern half of the state as well as northeastern Tennessee and western West Virginia, where more rainfall was expected to swell waterways already well above their flood stages, the National Weather Service said.

Rivers across the region were expected to crest on Friday and throughout the weekend, while a risk of more dangerous flash flooding remained possible again throughout the day, the weather service said.

As much as a foot of rain (30 cm) has fallen in parts of the region over the last week, according to the service, which forecast another half an inch (1.3 cm) would fall on Friday.

President Joe Biden called Beshear on Thursday night to offer federal help, the governor said. On Friday, Biden declared a major disaster in Kentucky, allowing federal funding to be allocated to the state.

Also on Thursday, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in his state, where heavy rains caused flooding that disrupted drinking water systems and blocked roads.

In the U.S. West, heavy rains battered Las Vegas, where floodwater washed over streets and rushed onto several casino floors and into parking garages along the famed Las Vegas Strip, video posted on local media and social media showed.

At Circa Casino, workers tried to sweep the water away from the flooded floor, while at Planet Hollywood, water rained down on a casino table from what appeared to be a hole in the ceiling.

By Brendan O’Brien