The more than 30 tornadoes that devastated states in the southern and midwestern United States on Friday leave a partial toll of 88 dead and dozens missing, although authorities do not rule out that the death toll is higher.
According to the latest data provided at 4:00 p.m. local time (9:00 p.m. GMT) by the governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, the death toll has risen to 74, compared to the 64 reported early on Monday, and he did not rule out that the figure continues to rise in his state, the one most affected by the catastrophe.
To those 74 deaths in Kentucky are added six deaths in Illinois after the partial collapse of a warehouse of the e-commerce company Amazon; two others in Arkansas – one of them in a nursing home; 4 more in Tennessee; and two others in Missouri
Beshear indicated in a press conference that the death toll in Kentucky may continue to grow, given that there are 109 missings, which, he added, are probably many more.
Previously, the governor had assured that the death toll “will certainly be above 70, perhaps even 80”, although he advanced that these numbers are “fluid” and may change in the coming days, either to go up or down. , and that the bottom line could take weeks.
Beshear stressed that in his state thousands of houses have been damaged or are destroyed: “It may take weeks before we have the final count of both deaths and levels of destruction,” said the governor.
Even so, the death toll would be lower than the more than 100 deaths that Beshear himself feared at first after the company that owns a candle factory reported that the missing at its Mayfield (Kentucky) plant were not around the 70 as the governor said, but only eight.
This Monday Beshear, visibly moved, affirmed that he trusts that the company’s data are true and that they “work actively” to confirm that, of the 110 people who were in the factory, 94 are located and safe, eight have died and others eight are missing.
A NIGHT OF TERROR
A total of four tornadoes hit Kentucky late Friday, including one that traveled more than 220 miles (350 kilometers) across multiple states, the longest in US records.
This circumstance and the fact that more than 30 tornadoes made landfall in just a few hours is something especially striking because this type of destructive phenomenon does not usually occur in December due to cold temperatures, something that scientists attribute to climate change.
The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, in English), Deanne Criswell, warned in an interview with CNN that this type of extreme weather event is going to be the “new normal.”
In that sense, he added, the effects caused by climate change are the “crisis of our generation.”
One of the tornadoes left six fatalities by causing the partial collapse of a warehouse of the e-commerce giant Amazon in Edwardsville, Illinois.
The deceased have already been identified, and they were between 26 and 62 years old, but the search and clearance tasks continue this Monday, even though no more survivors are expected to be found.
The authorities initially feared an even greater tragedy because the tornado arrived in the middle of the change of work shifts in the warehouse and they did not know for sure how many people were in this industrial warehouse inaugurated in 2020 and where about 200 people worked.
The National Meteorological Service indicated that preliminary data suggest that this tornado in Illinois, like the one that passed through several states, was category F3 on the Fujita scale, of a maximum of 5, and that it generates winds of between 136- 165 miles per hour (225-265 km / h).
Amazon has announced that it will donate one million dollars to the Edwardsville Community Foundation in support of its work to help those affected by this tornado.
BIDEN WILL GO TO KENTUCKY ON WEDNESDAY
US President Joe Biden announced today that he will travel to Kentucky on Wednesday to visit the scene of the tragedy and meet with families of the victims while pledging full federal support to affected states.
“What they need when they need it,” the president said at a meeting at the White House attended by the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Criswell.
Biden said that what worries him most is the “mental health” of the survivors and the “uncertainty” of those still searching for missing persons.
Mayorkas traveled to Kentucky on Sunday to see first-hand the progress of the rescue and recovery work.
During his visit to Mayfield, Mayorkas promised all the necessary help from the federal government and explained that they are already providing water, food and shelter to those affected.
Biden declared Kentucky the “major disaster” on Sunday and ordered more federal aid to complement recovery efforts in this area, where more than 25,000 customers are still without power on Monday, according to the specialized website Poweroutage.com.
The White House announced that the same could be done with other areas of the country impacted by tornadoes once the damage assessments are completed.