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Beshear: FEMA has to ‘get it right’ in response to flooding

Kentucky cleanup ongoing as region braces for more rain

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, talk with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, as they view flood damage, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Lost Creek, Ky.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, talk with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, as they view flood damage, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Lost Creek, Ky. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (brynn anderson/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday he will be relentless in pushing for federal assistance in flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky, insisting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has “to get it right” by broadly supporting residents trying to rebuild their lives.

A day after President Joe Biden said the nation has an obligation to help all its people as he visited the stricken Appalachian region, Kentucky’s Democratic governor said the devastation is so extensive that it will be one of the most difficult rebuilding efforts the country has seen.

“I believe that this is the natural disaster where we are going to see, is FEMA going to get it right?” Beshear said Tuesday at a news conference. “Or is it going to be an example where people are excited when they come in but even more deflated when they leave?”

Beshear said the federal government has said “yes to just about every major program that we’ve asked for,” but said FEMA should do more to help more residents recover.

“This is what FEMA’s supposed to be there for,” the governor said. “For folks that are wiped out, for folks that without it can’t get back on their feet.”

As the cleanup of staggering amounts of debris continued, eastern Kentucky braced for the potential for heavy rainfall that could unleash more flash flooding. A flood watch was in effect for the region until this evening, the National Weather Service said.

“The next two days are of significant concern,” Beshear said. “Folks have been through too much.”

At least 37 people have died since last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10-1/2 inches of rain in only 48 hours. Authorities expect to add at least one other death to the total, the governor said.

More than 500 people left homeless by the disaster are staying in emergency shelters or at state parks, Beshear said. Power outages were down to about 370 customers, while about 6,600 service connections remained without water, he said.

Debris removal efforts are moving forward, Beshear said. He added: “Once we get all of the private contractors up and running, people are going to see a huge difference very quickly.”

Once the latest storms have passed, officials hope to move from “emergency mode to stabilization mode,” the governor said.

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