At least 70 feared dead in Kentucky as tornadoes rip through swaths of U.S.

More than 70 people are feared dead after a catastrophic series of tornadoes ripped through Kentucky and other states late Friday and early Saturday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.

“It’s devastating,” Beshear told a news conference early Saturday, adding that he had declared a state of emergency and activated 181 guardsmen from the National Guard, a number that is expected to go up as requests for help continue to come.

“We believe our death toll from this event is north of 70 Kentuckians and may end of exceeding 100 before the day is done ,” he said. “We will make it through this,” he added. “We will rebuild, we are strong, resilient people.”

Beshear said he expects this tornado to be the deadliest one to ever hit Kentucky.

Beshear said four tornadoes, one of which stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles after touching down, had swept through the state. Almost 60,000 Kentuckians had been left without power, he said.

The city of Mayfield had been “devastated,” he said, adding that a roof collapse at a candle factory had “resulted in mass casualties.”

Mayfield Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Creason said that the bulk of their resources are going towards dealing with the facility’s devastation. At the same time, Creason is looking for a temporary home for their main fire station since it was destroyed by the tornado, leaving it “fully inoperable,” he said.

Beshear later tweeted a letter he sent to President Joe Biden asking for “an immediate federal emergency declaration.” Such declaration is expected to become official early afternoon.

Elsewhere, one person was dead and five were seriously injured when an apparent tornado struck the Monette Manor Nursing Home in Monette, Arkansas, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said. He initially said two people had died.

People search through a tornado-damaged building on Dec., 11, 2021 in Mayfield, Ky.Brett Carlsen / Getty Images
Local residents walk past the scene of a train derailment after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several states in Earlington, Ky., on Dec. 11, 2021. Cheney Orr / Reuters

At the same news conference, Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said the storm represented a significant massive disaster event.

“All state resources are being brought to bear,” he said, adding that “it’ll be daybreak before we even realize the full magnitude of this event.”

Trucks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are on their way to Kentucky with search and rescue teams who will be assisting local authorities as well as temporary power systems, Dossett said late Saturday morning.

Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky issued statements following the devastating event.

“As I continue to get reports from my staff, local and state officials, we will work with the entire Kentucky federal delegation to support Governor Andy Beshear’s requests for federal assistance in order to aid these hard-hit communities with the funding and resources they need to rebuild,” McConnell said.

 “Our hearts are broken for all those suffering from last night’s terrible storms,” Paul said.

Tornado warnings issued Friday also covered parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. Nearly 180,000 utility customers in those five states were without power early Saturday.

On Saturday morning, Biden said he had been briefed “on the devastating tornadoes across the central U.S.”

“We’re working with Governors to ensure they have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue,” Biden tweeted. “To lose a loved one in a storm like this is an unimaginable tragedy.”

Mayfield Police Chief Nathan King also said that their police station was destroyed by the tornado, comprising their vehicle fleets and communications technology. But that’s not stopping them from responding to the emergency, he said.

Mayfield police will begin 12-hour shifts to help with the response, particularly enforcing a new curfew urging residents in the Kentucky town to remain indoors after 7 p.m.

First responders will be the only ones allowed in the streets overnight, King said.

Heavy damage downtown after a tornado swept through the area on Dec. 11, 2021 in Mayfield, Ky.Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Amazon Warehouse collapsed

In Edwardsville, Illinois, outside St. Louis, there were multiple injuries and at least one death after a 100-foot portion of a wall partially collapsed at an Amazon facility, officials with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Edwardsville Fire Department said. which building it was, nor how many people were believed to be trapped inside.

He added that it was going to be a “long process” to determine exactly what had happened.

Calling it a “devastating tragedy,” Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said the company offered its “thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted.”

“Our focus is on supporting our employees and partners,” he added.

Emergency crews respond to a collapsed Amazon warehouse after a tornado passed through Edwardsville, Ill., on Dec. 10, 2021.Chris Phillips / Maverick Media via Reuters

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the state’s Emergency Operations

enter as a result of the severe weather. There have been multiple, unconfirmed reports of tornadoes, the emergency management agency said.

Damage in Tennessee, Missouri

A possible tornado also struck in Samburg, Tennessee, where the local fire department was severely damaged, the Obion County Sheriff’s Office said. It wasn’t clear if there were injuries.

Earlier, the National Weather Service also issued a tornado emergency for the Kentucky cities of Madisonville, Earlington and Nortonville. Such a designation signifies that “severe threat to human life is imminent,” catastrophic damage is likely, or that there’s reliable information that a tornado touched down.

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