Over 80 killed in tornadoes in central U.S.; Biden declares emergency in Kentucky
Updated December 11, 2021 at 11:33 AM ET
Dozens of people in the Midwest are believed to be dead after severe weather that caused multiple tornadoes struck late Friday night and early Saturday morning, tearing through several states including Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas. President Biden called the destruction "devastating."
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference from western Kentucky, the hardest-hit area in the state, that the Department of Homeland Security and the White House have assured a federal disaster declaration within the hour.
"We will see more resources coming into this area," Beshear said.
In Mayfield, Ky., a candle factory was hit, leading to multiple fatalities, Beshear said at a news conference earlier Saturday morning. At the time, the death toll was 50 but he said he expects that number to rise.
"We believe our death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentuckians, probably end up closer to 70 to 100 lost lives," he said.
"This is one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history," Beshear said. "We will make it through this. We will rebuild."
The devastation in the Mayfield area goes beyond the factory, and several surrounding counties are 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.
President Biden tweeted that he has been briefed on the tornadoes and called them "devastating."
"To lose a loved one in a storm like this is an unimaginable tragedy. We're working with Governors to ensure they have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue," Biden said.
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said Friday night's tornado event may surpass the 1974 Super Outbreak as the deadliest in the state's history.
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.
Ronnie Noel, Hopkins County's magistrate, told NPR he traveled to nearby Dawson Springs to survey the damage from the storms.
"Total devastation there. Lots of power lines, trees everywhere. Homes demolished," he said. "There's loss of life in Dawson [Springs] and it's just totally devastating for the whole county."
In Edwardsville, Ill., just east of St. Louis, severe weather struck an Amazon warehouse, causing "catastrophic damage," the Edwardsville Police Department said in a statement on Facebook. It said there were confirmed fatalities on site and search and rescue efforts were ongoing.
The damage includes the roof getting ripped off the warehouse, the Associated Press reported, and a wall roughly the length of a football field collapsed. The AP reports at least one person at the warehouse died, two people were moved to nearby hospitals in helicopters and 30 went to a nearby police station for further evaluation.
Amazon said it was providing support to employees in the area.
"We're deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL," Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement to NPR.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the storm," Nantel said. "We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on scene."
The extreme weather conditions also hit parts of Arkansas, where a nursing home was struck, and Tennessee.
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.
"We're very thankful that there were not more people hurt and killed at the nursing home and the surrounding area. It was a pretty strong storm that hit us, but everybody's doing what they can do," Day said.
He added that the biggest issue as of Saturday morning is getting power back to many residents in the area.
This is a breaking news story. Some things reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.
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