Hurricanes leave 80 dead in six US states; One town turned into ‘matchsticks’

Updated 3 hours ago

Dozens of tornadoes swept through six US states overnight, killing more than 80 people and leaving dozens missing in what President Joe Biden said was likely to be «one of the largest» storm outbreaks in American history.

«It’s a tragedy,» said a shaken Biden in televised comments. «And we still don’t know how many lives were lost and the full extent of the damage.»

“I pray there will be another rescue. I pray there will be one or two more,” Kentucky Governor Andy Bashir said, as crews examined the wreckage of a candle factory in Mayfield, where 110 people were working through the night Friday when the storm hit .

40 of them were rescued.

«We’ve had to, at times, crawl over victims to get to victims,» ​​said Jeremy Cresson, the city’s fire chief.

«The devastation is unlike anything I’ve seen in my life and I find it hard to put into words,» he told reporters.

Bashir declared a state of emergency in the state.

Mayfield Mayfield Cathy Onan told CNN that the western Kentucky town of Mayfield had been turned into «matchsticks.»

Drone image of demolished buildings in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky

Source: Ryan C Hermens / Lexington Herald-Leader via AP
Officials described the small town of 10,000 people as «ground zero,» and it emerged after the apocalypse: city blocks were flattened; Historic homes and buildings that have been beaten to their slates; tree trunks stripped of their branches; Overturned cars in the fields.

Some Christmas decorations can still be seen on the roadside.

In Kentucky alone, 22 people were confirmed dead by Saturday afternoon, including 11 in and around Bowling Green.

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But Bashir said more than 70 died when the hurricane struck more than 200 miles in his state and that the death toll could eventually exceed 100 in 10 or more counties.

The death toll of 36 in five states includes six in Illinois, where the Amazon facility was bombed. four in TN; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home has been destroyed; and two in Missouri.

If early reports are confirmed, the hurricane will likely go down as one of the longest-running violent tornadoes in US history, said Victor Genzini, an extreme weather researcher at Northern Illinois University.

The longest hurricane ever recorded, in March 1925, was tracked for 220 miles across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. But Janzini said that hurricane may have descended as far as 250 miles. He said the storm was more than wonderful because it came in December, when the cooler weather was limiting hurricanes.

The streets were lined with twisted sheets of metal, dilapidated power lines and wrecked cars. Windows and roofs were shattered from buildings that were still standing.

Sarah Burgess, a Kentucky state police officer, said rescue crews were using heavy equipment to move debris at the candle factory.

Investigators were called to the scene and the bodies were recovered, but she did not know their number. She said it could take a day, maybe longer, to clear all the debris.

In a parking lot in downtown Mayfield, volunteers were collecting warm clothes, nappies and water for residents.

Bashir said the tornado that hit Mayfield shook the ground for more than 200 miles in Kentucky and 227 miles overall.

Previously, the longest US tornado ever tracked was a 219-mile storm in Missouri in 1925. It killed 695 people.

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In a demonstration of storm power Saturday, when a 27-car train veered off the tracks near Erlington, Kentucky, one of the cars exploded 75 yards up a hill and another landed on a house. No one is hurt.

President Joe Biden approved a declaration of emergency over the Kentucky disaster on Saturday and pledged support for the affected nations.

“I promise, whatever is needed — whatever is needed — the federal government will find a way to provide it,” Biden said.

Six people were killed in the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, and another injured worker was airlifted to a hospital, fire chief James Whitford said.

Mr Whitford said investigators searched the rubble throughout the day for additional victims and 45 people survived.

Authorities weren’t sure Saturday night if anyone was still missing because workers were in the midst of a shift change when the tornado hit around 8:30 p.m. Friday.

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«This is a devastating tragedy for our family at Amazon and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners,» Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement.

Crews use an excavator to pull parts of a damaged roof during search and rescue operations at the Amazon Distribution Center in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Source: Daniel Scholar/St.Louis Post-Dispatch via Associated Press
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Consortium, which has been trying to organize workers at Amazon’s Alabama facility, has criticized the company for keeping the Illinois site open during the weather emergency.

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The office of Missouri Governor Mike Parson said the storms have killed at least two people in the state and initial estimates are that they destroyed or severely damaged hundreds of homes and buildings.

National Weather Service (NWS) office workers had to take cover when a tornado passed near their office in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles west of St. Louis.

“This was an incredible storm that lasted a long time and covered a lot of land,” said Larry Fanuzzi, a meteorologist in charge of the NWS office that covers the Nashville area.

He added that meteorologists had not determined whether the storm had created a single hurricane or multiple tornadoes.

In Arkansas, a tornado hit a nursing home in Monnett, killing one person and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said another person died when the storm hit a store at Dollar General in nearby Litchville.

«Perhaps the most wonderful thing is that there is no greater loss of life,» Mr. Hutchinson said after touring the wreckage of a nursing home.

“It is catastrophic. It is complete destruction.”

On Saturday, Governor Bill Lee toured tornado-torn parts of western Tennessee in which four people were killed.

Mr. Lee traveled to Tiptonville and then to Dresden, a small town of about 3,000 that saw a downtown lane torn to shreds.

«This is about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen,» said Mr. Lee, who hit three killer tornadoes across the state during his first term in office.

«The whole town, the whole town.»

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