Dozens of frightened people died after tornadoes and hurricanes devastated homes, factories, nursing homes and entire towns Friday night and Saturday morning in multiple states, including Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he expected more than 70 deaths amid the devastating roadway across western Kentucky in what he called deadliest tornado event in state history. He said the tornado had touched down 227 miles, most of them in his state.
“Now I’m sure that number is north of 70, and it could exceed 100 before the day is over,” he said at a news conference early Saturday. He called the devastation “indescribable.”
Elsewhere, officials reported deaths after severe weather tore through an Amazon facility in Illinois and a tornado devastated a nursing home in Arkansas.
The tragedy is expected to get worse as rescue efforts continue.
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the storm response. The White House said Biden spoke Saturday with Beshear and the governors of Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee and Missouri.
“We’re going to get through this together,” Biden said Saturday. “The federal government is not going to walk away. This is one of those times when we are neither Democrats nor Republicans. We are all Americans.”
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Satellite imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows multiple tornadoes have been reported across six states. Beshear said four tornadoes hit Kentucky, with most of the devastation coming from a tornado that started in Arkansas and traveled more than 220 miles.
In Arkansas late Friday, a tornado hit the 86-bed Monette Manor nursing home, killing one person and trapping nearly two dozen people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County judge Marvin Day told Associated Press.
Five people were seriously injured, he said.
Sheriff James Whiteford said six people were killed after severe weather tore off the roof of an Amazon facility a few miles from St. Louis in Edwardsville, Illinois about 25 kilometers to the east. Police Chief Mike Fillback said another injured person was airlifted to the hospital. .
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone affected by the storm,” Amazon said in a statement. “We’d also like to thank all of the first responders for their ongoing efforts in the field.”
In Tennessee, three people have died in the northwest of the state, emergency management officials confirmed.
At a news conference Saturday morning, officials said about 40 people had been rescued from a leveled candle factory in Mayfield. The exact death toll is unknown, and it is expected to increase. Coroners were called to the scene and the bodies were recovered.
“It would be a miracle if anyone else was found alive,” Beshear said Saturday afternoon at a news conference.
“The structure is just a bunch of bent metal and steel,” said Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason. “Sometimes we have to crawl through causality to get to the surviving victims to get them out.”
Beshear said about 110 people were in the facility at the time of the tornado. He said cars were on top of the flattened building, along with heavy machinery and metal drums containing “corrosive chemicals”.
“It was horrible to see,” he said.
“This is the deadliest tornado event in our state’s history, and for those who have witnessed it, what has happened here in Graves County and elsewhere is simply unbelievable. can be described”.
The governor said he expects the death toll to reach 100 “before the day is over.”
Damage reports were issued early in the night
Beshear said there would be fatalities in Graves, Marshall, Warren and Hopkins counties, adding that he would be “surprised if we don’t lose lives in at least five or more counties.”
He visited Mayfield and Dawson Springs, where he said his father grew up and where “they’re going to lose a lot of people.”
“A block away from my grandparents’ house, there is no standing house,” he said chokingly. “There are no houses standing and we don’t know where those people are.”
In Arkansas, Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told KAIT-TV early Saturday that a woman died inside a Dollar General.
According to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, two deaths have been reported in northeastern Arkansas and at least 20,000 people are without power statewide.
Workers at the National Weather Service office take shelter as a tornado passes through the center in Weldon Spring, Missouri, a short walk from St. Louis about 30 miles to the west.
Live updates:Get tornado news here
Kentucky’s death toll could be history
Beshear said he expected “at least dozens” of deaths from the collapse of the candle factory roof.
According to the National Weather Service, the deadliest tornado in state history occurred in Jefferson County in 1890, when 76 people were killed.
Just over 70 people in Kentucky were killed by tornadoes that broke out across multiple states in 1974.
The governor declared a state of emergency before midnight, activating the National Guard and deploying about 200 members of the Guard – including search and mining and debris clearance personnel – who are expected to coming soon on Saturday.
“This has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history. And some areas have been affected in ways that are hard to put into words,” Beshear said. “To all of our Kentucky families affected by this, we want you to know that we are here for you, we love you, we are praying for you.”
Contribution: Associated Press