Over 80 killed in tornadoes in central US; President Biden declares emergency in Kentucky

Scores of people in the South and Midwest are believed dead after multiple tornadoes struck late Friday night and early Saturday morning, tearing through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.

At least 70 people are likely to have died in Kentucky alone, the governor said, and the death toll may rise to more than 100. President Biden approved the state’s emergency declaration in order to provide federal funds for relief efforts. He called the damage “devastating.”

Officials in Illinois confirmed six fatalities at an Amazon warehouse near St. Louis. At least four people were killed in Tennessee, two in Arkansas and two in Missouri. Dozens of tornadoes were counted, the worst of which hit western Kentucky. Tornado warnings from the National Weather Service continued in the region Saturday morning.

“This event is the worst, most devastating, most deadly tornado event in Kentucky’s history,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday afternoon.

“The devastation is unlike anything I have seen in my life and I have trouble putting it into words,” he said after viewing damage in multiple areas. Beshear spoke with the president over the phone Saturday afternoon and said the federal emergency declaration will bring in more resources to respond to the disaster.

President Biden said on Saturday that he also spoke with governors from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois, states that also saw damage from the tornadoes.

“The federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help,” Biden said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed search and rescue teams and water and supplies, he said, and would help with finding people temporary housing.

Biden said he is ready to declare emergencies for other affected states if the governors request it. He said he plans to visit Kentucky when his presence won’t take away from emergency response efforts.

In Mayfield, Ky., 110 people were working at a candle factory when it was hit, Beshear said. “They rescued 40. There’s at least 15 feet of metal with cars on top of it. Barrels of corrosive chemicals that are there. It’ll be a miracle if anybody else is found alive in it.”

“This is one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history,” Beshear said earlier Saturday. “We will make it through this. We will rebuild.”

The devastation in the Mayfield area goes beyond the factory, and several surrounding counties are pitching in with EMS help as the main emergency services hub in the town itself was in the direct line of the storm, local officials said Saturday. The water tower was hit too, leaving the town without water.

Reports on social media show severe damage from Friday night’s storm. A train derailed from the winds, damaging multiple homes. Two children in Hopkins County, Ky. were found alive in a bathtub that had been blown away from their house.

The extreme weather conditions also hit parts of Arkansas, where a nursing home was struck. Judge Marvin Day from Craighead County, Ark., where the nursing home is located, told NPR that as of around midnight, one resident from the facility died and five were seriously injured. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said two people were killed in the state and there was “widespread property loss.”

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee said there was “tremendous devastation in multiple locations.” Four people were confirmed killed across Tennessee, and one is still missing, according to Alex Pellom, chief of staff at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Three people were killed in western Tennessee, two of them in Lake County and one in Obion County, according to the TEMA. Ten people were taken to hospitals and 64 had more minor injuries, Pellom said on Saturday evening.

Numerous trees and power lines are down and damage was reported across several counties in middle Tennessee. In the parts of Tennessee that were hit by the storm, about 63,000 customers were without power on Saturday evening, Pellom said [NPR].



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