President Joe Biden has pledged more financial support for disaster-stricken Kentucky, describing the state’s recent destructive flash flooding as “another sign of dangerous climate change”.
Some 38 people died in eastern Kentucky after severe storms dropped between 8 and 10.5 inches of rain in the span of 48 hours. Mr Biden previously visited the state in December after a series of devastating tornadoes whipped through the region, killing 77 people.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s my second visit to Kentucky, for a crisis,” he said. “I promise you… As long as it takes we’re going to be here. We [the federal government] are committed. There’s absolute 100 percent coverage of cost for the next few months.”
The Bidens arrived on Air Force One at Blue Grass Airport just before 11am local time, where they were met by Linda Gorton, the mayor of Lexington.
The Bidens then met with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy. The foursome drove to see some of the devastation in Breathitt County, stopping at the site where a school bus, carried by floodwaters, was crashed into partially-collapsed building.
The roads along the route were strewn with building materials, clothing and household items.
“Those are pieces of everybody’s houses. That’s all that’s left,” Gov. Beshear told President Biden. “It took out power... just incredible.”
He explained that “rushing waters” was what had caused the damage.
The group then headed to a briefing on the flooding’s impact with first responders and recovery specialists at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek.
Mr Biden, who was given the official all-clear on Sunday after isolating from a rebound case of Covid-19, told reporters this morning that he was “feeling great”.
The president is coming off the back of a significant win for his domestic agenda after the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Sunday. The bill, which will tackle the climate crisis and prescription drug prices, made it through on strict party lines, with the tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. It heads to the House for votes on Friday, and if passed will be signed into law by Mr Biden.
The president has granted federal emergency aid in response to the disaster in Kentucky including covering 100 per cent of emergency services for Eastern Kentucky cities and counties for a continuous 30-day period, Gov. Beshear confirmed on Sunday.
Among the Kentucky fatalities were four young siblings who were swept away from their parents in Knotts County.
The bodies of Madison Noble, eight, Riley Jr, five, Neveah, four, and two-year-old Chance were discovered on 29 July, the day after being separated from parents, Riley Noble and Amber Smith, as the family clung to a tree when their home became inundated with water.
Heavy rain accumulated rapidly on 28 July, trapping many residents in their homes. In some places, homes were lifted entirely from their foundations as torrents of water and mud flowed through neighborhoods. The Kentucky River crested at all-time high levels in the towns of Whitesburg and Jackson.
More thunderstorms are forecast for later this week.
Flash flooding is becoming more common, and more intense, across the US due to the climate crisis, a recent study found. As the planet heats up, some areas will see heavier rainstorms, dropping much more water at once and risking rapid-onset floods.
AP contributed to this report
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