At least 50 feared dead in Kentucky tornadoes as powerful storms rip across US

Governor says state’s death toll ‘probably closer to somewhere between 70 and 100’; deaths reported in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri; roof collapses at Amazon warehouse in Illinois

Members of the Bowling Green Fire Department dig through the remains of a house destroyed by a tornado in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Dec. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)
Members of the Bowling Green Fire Department dig through the remains of a house destroyed by a tornado in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Dec. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

At least 50 people are feared dead in Kentucky after a tornado swept through the US state, Governor Andy Beshear told a news conference early Saturday.

“I fear that there are more than 50 dead in Kentucky'” he said. “Probably closer to somewhere between 70 and 100. It’s devastating.”

Beshear said it was the “most severe tornado event in Kentucky’s history.”

The governor said a roof collapse at a candle factory “resulted in mass casualties” in the city of Mayfield.

“There were about 110 people in it at the time that the tornado hit it,” Beshear said. “We believe we’ll lose at least dozens of those individuals. It’s very hard, really tough, and we’re praying for each and every one of those families.”

“Before midnight I declared a state of emergency,” Beshear said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speak in Frankfort, Kentucky, on September 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

Severe storms, some believed to be tornadoes, swept across the Midwest and parts of the southern US late Friday and into Saturday morning.

Emergency crews in southern Illinois were responding to reports of workers trapped inside an Amazon warehouse after its roof collapsed from storm damage.

Three people died in severe weather in Tennessee and at least one fatality was also reported in Missouri.

One person died and several were injured in an apparent tornado at an Arkansas nursing home.

A tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home on Friday night, killing one person and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press.

Five people had serious injuries, and a few others had minor ones, he said. The nursing home has 86 beds.

Day said another nursing home about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in Truman was badly damaged but no injuries were reported. The residents were being evacuated because the building is unsafe.

At least 100 emergency vehicles descended upon the Amazon warehouse near Edwardsville, Illinois, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of St. Louis, where a wall that was about the length of a football field collapsed, as did the roof above it.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were hurt, but one person was flown by helicopter to a hospital.

Edwardsville Police Chief Mike Fillback said several people who were in the building were taken by bus to the police station in nearby Pontoon Beach for evaluation.

By early Saturday, rescue crews were still sorting through the rubble to determine if anyone was trapped inside. Fillback said the process would last for several more hours. Cranes and backhoes were brought in to help move debris.

“Please be patient with us. Our fire personnel are doing everything they can to reunite everyone with their loved ones,” Fillback said on KMOV-TV.

The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the Amazon fulfillment center in Edwardsville opened with two warehouses in 2016, with 1.5 million square feet of space. The warehouses are used to store items until they are shipped to mail-order customers.

The center was filled with workers on the night shift processing orders ahead of the Christmas holidays.

First responders work outside an Amazon fulfillment center after it was heavily damaged when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area, on December 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Illinois. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Illinois Governor JB Pritzer said: “My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight.”

“Our Illinois State Police and Illinois Emergency Management Agency are both coordinating closely with local officials and I will continue to monitor the situation,” he added.

“The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now,” Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement Friday night. “We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available.”

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog, said, “Our heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones in last night’s devastating storms, and wishes of a speedy recovery to the wounded.

“Israel stands together with the American people and is ready to offer any assistance needed.”

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