SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Heavy rains have flooded many communities in Appalachia, and more rain is in the forecast. Parts of eastern Kentucky are devastated. Authorities have confirmed at least 25 people have died there. They expect that number to rise. Governor Andy Beshear has declared a state of emergency, and he's called the flooding one of the worst and most devastating in the history of the state. Governor Beshear joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us, Governor.
ANDY BESHEAR: Thank you for telling our story.
SIMON: What do you see on the ground that you want us to know about?
BESHEAR: Well, it is devastating. We have whole towns that are underwater. Houses that were in the line of the water are just gone - I mean, not a piece of the house left. We've lost 25 Kentuckians, each one a child of God that isn't going to be there at that next holiday. And we're going to lose more before this is done. We're not out of it yet. Water hasn't crested in at least one of our counties, though it is receding in most of them. We've got amazing National Guard, state police, Fish and Wildlife and others out doing search and rescue missions right now - over 660 air rescues alone. We are grateful to all the first responders, both from Kentucky and Tennessee and West Virginia that are helping out.
SIMON: As we noted, Governor, rain is in the forecast. What do you - that's got to complicate efforts. How do you prepare?
BESHEAR: It is. So we have about a day and a half where it is going to be dry. And so we are out right now. It looks like we're going to be able to get some of our high-axle vehicles to some of the harder-to-reach areas. We need to get everybody out of those areas, ultimately to safety, a shelter, somewhere where we can feed them, somewhere that is dry and we can get them medical attention. So the next day and a half, we are laser-focused on that. Beginning Sunday afternoon, we're likely to get rain. While it won't be as severe, we already have so much water and we're saturated, it's going to be a problem. And then you go into next week, and it's going to be really, really hot. And we are going to have a lot of people that are without power. So we're bringing every resource to bear. What we face is tough.
SIMON: Well, and you have - and you and other authorities have said you expect the number of lost people, people who have been lost to all of us, to increase over the next few days.
BESHEAR: It's going to grow. We're going to - we're likely going to be finding bodies for weeks to come. When you see the visual of this, I think people can understand that. This hit in the middle of the night, some people only waking up as they were being swept away. One family lost four kids. So a tough time here in the commonwealth, but we have been through tough times. We've got amazing people on the ground. We're going to get to as many people as we can.
SIMON: Your state has been struck by a number of natural disasters in recent months. There is, for example, that terrible tornado just last winter. How are people in the state holding up? What does it do to your emergency resources when they have to be deployed time after again?
BESHEAR: Well, while everybody is weary after three days of giving it everything we have - and we have to be there for each other. This is a state that opens its homes and its hearts to one another. You know, the fire chief in Mayfield, the town - one of the towns hit hardest by the tornadoes, got in an ambulance yesterday and drove to eastern Kentucky to help out. And the reason that he and the mayor wanted to do that was that the world was there for them in their time of need, and they wanted to be for eastern Kentucky. Pretty incredible.
SIMON: Governor, let me ask you, in the 45 seconds we have left, what have you learned about your friends and neighbors in Kentucky?
BESHEAR: They are amazing people. You know, and we stop arguing with each other about things that in times like this just don't matter at all. We realize we are all human beings, that we all owe a duty to one another to help, to get people back up on their feet. The other thing I know is that we don't abandon people. We will be there for these folks not just today and next week, but next year. You know, when you look at western Kentucky, we have been with them every day working on the rebuilding effort. We put about $100 million into the area thus far, and we're going to do the same to make sure we can lift up our brothers and sisters in eastern Kentucky.
SIMON: Kentucky's governor, Andy Beshear, thanks so much for being with us, sir.
BESHEAR: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.