Dilbert White, 67, is seated on the edge of his cot, where he has been sleeping since since his Caney, Kentucky, home was destroyed by water on August 3, 2022.
NBC News’ Michael Swensen
By Melissa Chan, Corky Siemaszko, and Minyvonne Burke
KY. KNOTT COUNTY Floods occurred first, followed by vultures.
Residents in Kentucky, who are in desperate need of food and clean water after the eastern part of the state was devastated by massive floods last week, refused to leave their destroyed houses on Wednesday out of concern that looters will take what little they have left.
It’s also upsetting because outsiders have been coming in to act like vultures and loot, according to Zack Hall, a flood victim and Knott County’s tourist director.
According to Hall, those who do have a way out now feel as though they must suffer and stay in their homes without electricity to make sure no one enters them.
My diabetic uncle is keeping an eye on all of our family’s properties to make sure no one enters them.
And the robbers are bold, according to Hall.
According to Hall, people pull up to people’s yards, load up their automobiles, and then go. We are one of the poorest regions in the nation. The little that the people had gets removed, and what washed away they lost.
At the shelters local officials erected in the wake of the terrible storms last week that left at least 37 dead and hundreds more still missing, spread out over five counties, many survivors are choosing to wait it out rather than asking for assistance.
According to officials, four of the dead are children from the same family, and 17 of those fatalities were reported in Knott County.
According to Hall, a lot of individuals are living simply. They are simply waiting for help to arrive while sitting on their porch.”
To stop looting, curfews have been implemented in at least two counties. The county sheriff in Breathitt County posted on Facebook on Tuesday that members of the Kentucky National Guard are now patrolling the damaged area.
I’m completely impatient with crime. The hard-hit city of Hindman’s mayor, Tracy Neice, made a post on the page’s official Facebook page on Sunday. We didn’t want to do this, but rampant looting has compelled us to do anything we can to deter crime and safeguard your stuff.
You are sick if you take advantage of individuals while they are in need. You won’t harm my people, added Neice. You simply won’t.
Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky stated that they are also harshly prosecuting out-of-state con artists.
It’s difficult to understand that someone could be or descend so low as to do that, he remarked on Tuesday, to pillage, steal, and take from individuals who have lost everything.
Rita Brewer claimed that someone broke into their Breathitt County home, which was damaged by the water, and stole the gas from her husband’s Jeep, her van, and their 4-wheeler.
That is very awful. Getting petrol is difficult enough. She stated that it cost us $74 to go back outside and refuel. We could have used that money to buy food. Additionally, gas is required to run generators.
They shouldn’t be stealing in public. Times are difficult as they are, she remarked.
Although the commonwealth would seek the highest bond, bail, and jail sentence for anyone who is caught, Breathitt County Attorney Brendon Miller said he was not aware of any arrests to date.
At this point, Miller added, this is the lowest thing somebody could ever do to another person. The lowest sort of citizenship you can truly engage in, in my opinion, is what these folks are doing or trying to do since their homes are absolutely vanished.
Although they have been “fielding reports of that conduct for four, five days,” Kentucky State Police Trooper Matt Gayheart claimed they have made at least one arrest for looting.
It’s an opportunity crime, he declared. “They’ll drive around and check out the debris. There isn’t much left at all. Any form of tool, including chainsaws, is fair game for them. converters for catalysis. Things that they can use to quickly generate a profit.
According to Gayheart, most of the robbers appear to be locals, but there have also been rumors of robbers from Virginia and Tennessee. Additionally, they seem to prefer easier-to-reach residences versus rural homes.
About 16,000 people live in Knott County, many of whom are older and have chronic conditions like diabetes, according to Hall. And even if they wanted to escape, they couldn’t since the majority of the county’s highways are either ruined or littered with mud and debris, and 70 bridges were devastated by flooding.
He claimed that at least half of them are unable to leave their homes to obtain the necessities. They are unable to leave these hollers where they are trapped.
According to Kevin Kelly, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, rescuers with the organization have given residents in difficult-to-reach areas without power more than 1,760 hot trays of food, 500 sandwiches, 39 cases of water, several cases of laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and diapers, as well as several air conditioners and generators.
In several instances, rescue personnel saddled up and rode horses to distribute food and water.
The cavalry cannot arrive fast enough for many flood survivors.
Regarding her 67-year-old father, Chester Marshall, who remains holed up in his Perry County house with her teenage son and her 5-year-old granddaughter due to flooding that destroyed the nearby road, Joanne Miller stated, “They’re just wishing they could get out.” They are unable to move their car from the driveway.
Because she doesn’t have a landline or a cellphone, 45-year-old Miller, who resides in nearby Breathitt County, said she uses Facebook Messenger to communicate with her 18-year-old son, Jacob Marshall.
This morning, I spoke with him,” Miller added. He remarked, “Mom, we could need anything that we can get right now.” I informed him that a woman will hopefully see them today.
The worst-affected parts in eastern Kentucky, including Perry County, were predicted to be covered in intense heat and humidity for the next two days, giving it a feeling of temperature near to 100 degrees.
According to Dustin Jordan of the National Weather Service, it will unquestionably slow down operations. You must move more slowly and go at a somewhat slower speed whenever you have to contend with increased heat.
As he announced the opening of eight cooling facilities where staff members will be “carrying in water by the truckloads,” Beshear reinforced that statement.
Beshear forewarned, “It’s going to get really, really hot.” And that is now the weather challenge we are facing.
According to Hall, it is already oppressive in Knott County.
He claimed that the heat only makes people miserable. It’s rather muggy. Breathing is challenging. Now, it resembles a rainforest. You’re already damp from being outside.
A significant portion of the Knott County population lives in trailers or mobile homes without air conditioning, and about a quarter of them were still without electricity nearly a week after the storms raged over the state.
Hall said, “They’re like tin cans.” Like an oven, they heat up.
While Melissa Chan and Corky Siemaszko reported from New York, Minyvonne Burke reported from Kentucky.
Senior breaking news correspondent Minyvonne Burke works for NBC News.
NBC News Digital reporter Melissa Chan specializes in covering gun violence.
Senior writer Corky Siemaszko works for NBC News Digital.