At least 50 people are believed to have been killed by a tornado in the U.S. state of Kentucky. "I fear that there are more than 50 dead in Kentucky, probably more like 70 to 100," Governor Andy Beshear told reporters on Saturday. Severe storms with a whole series of tornadoes had hit several states on Friday - in Illinois, the fate of about a hundred employees of an Amazon warehouse, which was partially destroyed, was initially unclear.
In Kentucky, the storms devastated several counties. According to Governor Beshear, the strongest tornado brought winds of about 322 kilometers per hour. It was reportedly the most severe tornadoes in Kentucky history. In the town of Mayfair, the roof of a candle factory collapsed, causing numerous casualties, according to the report. "Before midnight, I declared a state of emergency," the governor said.
One of the "darkest days" in Kentucky history
Beshear asked President Joe Biden for support. "Kentucky needs federal assistance to respond to this event," a letter to Biden released by the governor said Saturday. Power outages are widespread, it said. Seventeen of the 120 counties in the state were affected by the disaster, it said. Beshear also activated the National Guard to assist affected communities.
Kentucky Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Dossett told CNN that tornadoes cut a swath across 200 miles (320 kilometers) from southwest to northeast in the southeastern state. He called it one of Kentucky's "darkest days." Other states were also hit by the devastating storm system Saturday night. CNN reported dozens of tornadoes in six states.
Other states in the southeast and central parts of the country were also hit. Rescuers were concerned about the fate of about a hundred employees of an Amazon warehouse in the state of Illinois who were trapped in the building partially destroyed by a tornado. They were part of the night shift processing Christmas orders. A tornado warning was in effect at the time of the disaster.
Images on U.S. news channels and online networks showed that a large part of the roof of the warehouse in the town of Edwardsville had been torn away and a wall had collapsed into the building. Debris could be seen everywhere.
The local emergency management agency said there were numerous casualties. However, it initially remained unclear whether there were any deaths or injuries. Illinois Governor JB Pritzer said he was praying for the people of Edwardsville. Amazon spokesman Richard Rocha said the company was reviewing the situation. "The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now."
In Arkansas, at least one person died in a nursing home and 20 others were initially trapped inside the facility, according to local media reports. Officials later reported that rescue workers were able to free those trapped in the building, which was "largely destroyed." In Tennessee, at least two people died, a disaster management official told local media.