Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on Friday that at least 16 people have died and many remain unaccounted for after floods swamped the Appalachian mountain region of eastern Kentucky, reported DW, quoting news agencies AP, Reuters and AFP.
"I expect it to more than double," Beshear said. "And it's going to include some children."
Torrential rains caused water to gush out of streams and inundate homes in one of the poorest regions of the United States.
The governor added that some people's houses "were completely swept away in the middle of the night while they were sleeping."
In some areas, floodwaters also washed out roads and bridges.
The hardest hit areas of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) over a 48-hour period, forecasters said.
Rescue operation in full swing
Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director in Perry County which was ravaged by the floods said: "We've still got a lot of searching to do." He added that "we still have missing people."
At least 300 people have been reported rescued by emergency crews, including more than 100 people who were picked up in National Guard airlifts.
On Friday afternoon, some 22,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky and 2,200 in West Virginia remained with power, according to Poweroutage.us.
Evacuation centers were opened in state parks and other facilities.
The governor warned that some of these facilities had been hard-hit by the storms, and may be without electricity or other amenities.
State authorities are also bringing in drinking water on trucks.
US President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for Kentucky, allowing federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
He sent the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to tour flood-hit areas and report back to the White House.
More rainfall expected
Brandon Bonds, a weather service meteorologist in Jackson, Kentucky, said some places could see more rain Friday afternoon.
He said the area would begin to dry out on Saturday "before things pick back up Sunday and into next week.''
Climatologists say climate change is making extreme rainfalls and inland flooding more likely in many parts of the US.
Warmer air temperatures, driven in part by greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere, have created more extreme weather patterns such as the system that has inundated Kentucky this week, they say.