By Álvaro Blanco
Mayfield, USA, Dec 12 (EFE).- A large search and rescue operation was ongoing Sunday at a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, just 24 hours after a powerful tornado flattened the building with around 110 night shift workers inside, only 70 of whom are expected to be pulled out alive, according to authorities.
Mayfield, population 10,000, was hit hardest by the historic outbreak of around 30 tornados that roared through six southern and midwestern states, with reports also coming from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
One of the twisters that touched ground at around 10.30 pm local time on Friday carved out a path of devastation of around 227 miles (365 kilometers), according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. If verified, this would break the previous record set by the tri-state tornado outbreak of 1925.
At least 70 are feared dead in Mayfield although the death toll could rise above 100, Beshear told a press conference on Saturday, dozens of those fatalities are thought to have occurred at the candle factory, where teams of firefighters and excavators worked through the night to find survivors.
Of the 110 workers present when the factory was flattened, just 40 survivors have been accounted for as of Saturday afternoon, the state governor said.
Scenes of destruction were reported in other states in the region. In Illinois, six people lost their lives when a tornado caused the collapse of the roof of an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, while in Arkansas at least one death was reported after the roof of a nursing home partially caved in.
Areas of downtown Mayfield were reduced to wreckage, with the town’s police and fire departments taking on substantial damage.
Two local residents, Heath and Tristan Hudson, spoke to Efe about how they stayed out at night helping to repair ambulances whose tires were punctured by debris.
Paul Patel, who runs one of the few stores that remain open in Mayfield, said he took shelter in the back of his Lucky Mart for 45 minutes during the tornado and emerged to find complete destruction.