Kentucky tornadoes: Death toll likely to pass 100, governor sayson December 13, 2021 at 1:03 am

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Rescue workers have continued to scour the rubble but hopes of finding survivors are waning.

The death toll from powerful tornadoes that devastated towns in Kentucky is likely to pass 100, the governor says, as hope of finding survivors wanes.

Andy Beshear said this was the most devastating tornado event in the state’s history, with at least 80 confirmed deaths.

“Nothing that was standing in the direct line of [one] tornado is still standing,” he said.

Fourteen deaths have been reported in four other states.

In Kentucky, rescue workers scoured debris for survivors while teams distributed water and generators to residents. More than 300 members of the National Guard were going door to door and removing debris.

“We’re still hoping as we move forward for some miracles to find more people,” the governor said during a visit to the town of Mayfield, one of the hardest hit.

However, no-one has been found alive since Saturday morning.

Mr Beshear said a tornado had wrecked places all along its 227-mile (365km) path. Thousands of people had their homes destroyed though the exact number was still not clear.

Previously, the longest a tornado had travelled along the ground in the US was a 219-mile storm in Missouri in March 1925 that claimed 695 lives. Such major events outside of the spring and summer months are extremely rare.

In Mayfield, the fire station and the city hall were flattened. “I don’t think there’s a pane of glass in any vehicle or property that the city owns that isn’t shattered,” Mayor Kathy Stewart said.

Eight deaths were confirmed at a candle factor that was hit when 110 employees were believed to be inside, a spokesperson for the company told Reuters news agency. Eight other people were still missing.

Kyanna Parsons Perez, a factory worker who made a desperate plea for help on Facebook from under the wreckage, told the BBC that other businesses had shut down for the storm and staff there should not have been at work.

Governor Beshear said he had asked the Biden administration to declare a major federal disaster in the state, an upgrade from the current emergency designation. The move would free up additional federal recovery funds.

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By Nomia Iqbal, BBC News, Mayfield, Kentucky

As the sun rose, driving into Mayfield felt like entering a disaster movie. There is simply very little of the town left.

Flattened homes are now buried in heaps of their own debris – toys, shoes and an unfinished Christmas card are lying amongst the twisted metal sheeting and shredded trees.

Deeneen Moss lives a little outside of downtown and is looking for her cousin. It is a ghost town. “Everybody’s cellphone is down and I got up so early because I was nervous and couldn’t sleep. Wanted to see if he is here.”

As she drives down the road, she says she is unsure if she will even recognise the house. “It’s really heartbreaking. I’ve experienced tornadoes before but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

school bus in Mayfield
Church in Mayfield

Deeneen is a school bus driver. Nearby one of those buses is overturned on its side, with the engine hanging out.

Windows and roofs have been blown off buildings that are still standing, including one of the main churches.

The stained glass has blown in and shards of it are covering the pews. Many people took cover in here when the tornado blew through on Friday.

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In Illinois, six people were killed in a collapsed Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville and more were still missing.

Resident salvages items from a home that was destroyed after a tornado ripped through the town of Mayfield

Image source, Getty Images

Four deaths were confirmed in Tennessee while two people were killed in Arkansas, one of them in a nursing home after it partly collapsed. One death was confirmed in Missouri.

President Joe Biden said he would ask the Environmental Protection Agency to examine what role climate change might have played in the storms.

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