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FEMA faces criticism for response as flood death count grows

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear called out the Federal Emergency Management Agency for denying too many requests for assistance in flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky, where the number of people who died as a result of the disaster has risen to 39. The official death count rose Thursday when an additional death was counted in Breathitt County, Beshear said. He didn’t identify the person or provide other details. “I ask the commonwealth to…

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AP — FRANKFORT, Ky. At least 39 people have lost their lives due to the floods in eastern Kentucky, and Governor Andy Beshear has criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency for denying too many requests for aid.

Beshear stated on Thursday that the official death toll had increased by one after a body was found in Breathitt County. No one was named, and he gave no other information.

The Democratic governor of Kentucky tweeted, “I ask the commonwealth to join me in praying for our fellow Kentuckians during this difficult time.”

The death toll from the historic flooding in eastern Kentucky rose to 38 earlier this week, with the addition of a high school athlete who had spent days helping his community clean up.

An unexpected illness took the life of Aaron “Mick” Crawford within a few days. His mother Ronda Crawford told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he “went into cardiac arrest,” but the family still doesn’t know what killed him.

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Last month, flood waters in the Appalachian region destroyed homes and flooded entire neighborhoods.

The affected area is “likely out of the emergency phase of responding to this disaster,” the governor said on Thursday. Beshear has given the all-clear for search-and-rescue teams to leave the area after they stayed to wait out the possibility of more heavy rains.

The governor stated, “That is a major step that we have been waiting to reach at this moment, basically since the beginning of this.”

The governor has increased pressure on federal emergency officials to assist more people as the massive cleanup continues.

On Thursday, Beshear expressed frustration that FEMA was rejecting too many applications for aid and urged those who had been denied to appeal to FEMA’s regional offices. The governor has stated, “we need to see better outcomes” for more people in eastern Kentucky who apply to FEMA for recovery assistance.

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Beshear claimed he informed President Joe Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and high-ranking FEMA officials of his worries. On Monday, President Obama and Vice President Biden visited the area, and Obama promised federal aid until locals could get back on their feet. Beshear accompanied Biden on this trip.

The governor voiced his displeasure with the application process, saying that flood victims were being turned away for lack of paperwork.

On Thursday night, FEMA press secretary Jeremy Edwards responded to questions about how long FEMA workers would remain in the flood-ravaged region. Efforts are being made to “reduce barriers and cut red tape,” Edwards said of the agency’s leadership.

Edwards reassured the applicant, “if you were denied assistance, that is not necessarily the end of the road.” The application may be deemed ineligible due to something as minor as a missing document. We recognize that the system’s bureaucracy can be a source of frustration, and we’re aware that there is room for improvement.

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