Unprecedented rainfall-triggered floods in Kentucky have killed at least 37 as rescuers continue to search for missing people. More than 23,000 homes and businesses were left without power.

As of Tuesday, at least 37 people – including several kids – have lost their lives last week in the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky, as record floods inundated homes and businesses, washed away roads, and forced residents to seek shelter on rooftops.

The death toll is expected to rise in the coming weeks as rescuers keep looking for the dozens of people still reportedly missing.  

More heavy downpours expected to hit the area early this week will likely add to the water load of rivers and streams, which are already struggling with the deluge. The level of the North Fork Kentucky River increased by 37.5 feet (11.4 metres) in under 33 hours, the National Weather Service reported.

Over the weekend, authorities evacuated parts of Jackson after concerns about the Panbowl Lake Dam breaching as rainfall continues.

The floods – the first of such intensity to hit Kentucky – have left more than 33,000 people across the state without electricity, while natural gas and mobile phone services are down in some areas – Bloomberg reports.

It has been a tough time for Kentucky. Just seven months ago, the state was hit by the worst swarm of tornados the region has ever experienced, which claimed 75 lives and left hundreds injured. US President Joe Biden has already approved federal funds to help rescuers. 

Scientists say climate change is triggering more frequent extreme weather events like the floods in Kentucky. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the southeastern state has seen temperatures rise by 0.6C over the last century and has experienced the warmest consecutive 5-year interval in 2016-2020. Total annual precipitation has also been above the historical average since 2000.

Other parts of the country are also fighting their own battle against climate change. Last month, devastating fires broke out in California’s Yosemite National Park, threatening the world’s oldest grove of giant sequoias. Meanwhile, an unrelenting historic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest and South is showing no sign of letting up soon. More than 30 million people across the US are currently under various heat alerts.

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