100+ feared killed in ‘worst tornado outbreak’ in US history
A multi-state series of tornadoes that laid waste to the Midwestern US, possibly killing over 100 people, may be one of the worst in the nation’s history, President Joe Biden has said, declaring a disaster emergency.
The president officially declared a federal disaster emergency in Kentucky on Saturday afternoon after pledging the government’s “full support” to the devastated communities earlier in the day. Biden suggested the wrath of nature was “likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history,” adding that his administration stood ready to declare similar federal emergencies for the governors of other states hit by the storm.
The death toll from the series of storms is likely to surpass 100 in Kentucky alone, Governor Andy Beshear said during a press conference on Saturday, as search and rescue operations continued across the region.
Earlier this morning at about 5am we were pretty sure that we would lose over 50 Kentuckians. I’m now certain that that number is north of 70, it may in fact end up exceeding 100 before the day is done.
At least four separate tornadoes ripped through the state, with the most devastating one traveling more than 227 miles (365km) across Kentucky, laying waste to all in its path and leaving over 60,000 residents without power.
It “will be a miracle” if anyone else was found alive in the candle factory demolished by the windstorm in Mayfield, where the Coast Guard is assisting in rescue operations, the governor added. The factory, which collapsed with some 110 workers believed trapped inside, has seen over 40 rescued, but the number of casualties “could rise significantly.”
Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee were also hit by powerful storms and tornadoes overnight. Over 100 tornado warnings went out as the devastating windstorms tore through the Midwestern communities.
In Arkansas, a nursing home resident was killed and several injured after the facility was ravaged by the storm. At least one more death was confirmed elsewhere in the state.
Meanwhile in Illinois, at least six people were confirmed dead after a tornado ripped off the roof of an Amazon warehouse, causing its walls to collapse onto a still unknown number of workers. By Saturday evening, authorities had lost all hope of finding any more survivors.