Washington, Dec 11 (EFE).- Dozens of people were killed when six states in the southern and midwestern United States experienced what President Joe Biden described as “one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history.”
The National Weather Service (NWS) said it received 37 individual reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Kentucky appeared to suffer the biggest impact, with at least 70 fatalities, and Gov. Andy Beshear said he expected the final death toll in his state to top 100.
“I think it can rise significantly,” he told a press conference.
Attention focused on Mayfield, Kentucky, a town of some 10,000 people where a tornado reduced numerous homes and businesses to rubble, including a candle factory with around 110 people inside when the twister struck.
“We believe we’ll lose at least dozens of those individuals,” Beshear said.
Forty people were pulled alive from the wreckage of the factory during the course of the day.
“Today, Kentucky is absolutely united. We’re united with our people. We’re united to find and rescue as many as possible. We are united to grieve,” the governor said. “The devastation is unlike anything I have seen in my life and I have trouble putting it into words.”
Six people lost their lives when a tornado caused the collapse of the roof of an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois.
The town’s fire chief, James Whiteford, said 45 of the still-unknown number of people working Friday night managed to get out of the building.
Officials initially said that two people died, but the toll had climbed to six by Saturday afternoon.
“This is a tragic day in Illinois history,” Gov JB Pritzker said during a press conference with Whiteford and Edwardsville Mayor Art Risavy.
Authorities in Arkansas said that two people died in their state, including a nursing home resident, while Tennessee reported three fatalities.
Power outages were widespread and some 100,000 households remained without electricity Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy. And we still don’t know how many lives are lost or the full extent of the damage. I want to emphasize what I told all the governors, the federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help,” Biden told reporters.
Having already approved a disaster declaration for Kentucky, the president said he was ready to do likewise for the other affected states if their governors request it.
Personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are already in the process of evaluating damage in all six states, Biden said.
“I promise you, whatever is needed, whatever is needed, the federal government is going to find a way to supply it,” he said.
The NWS was trying to confirm indications that one of the storms traveled at least 220 mi (354 km) through four states, which would make it one longest tornados on record in the US. EFE lb/dr