Tornadoes have hit six US states, killed more than 70 people in Kentucky and destroyed an Amazon plant in Illinois, officials said.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear called the tornadoes the worst in the state’s history. The main storm pulled through Kentucky for more than 227 miles, he said.
“It was one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history and some areas were hit in ways that are difficult to put into words,” Beshear said at a news conference on Saturday. He added that the state’s death toll could reach 100.
The town of Mayfield was “devastated,” he said. A roof collapse in a candle factory had led to mass deaths. Tens of thousands were without power and Beshear declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.
President Joe Biden headed federal aid to Kentucky and tweeted that the loss of life was “an unimaginable tragedy.”
At a later press conference, he said the disaster had shown why coordinated global action against climate change was needed. But the first priority, he added, is to help the worst-affected.
“Whatever is needed, the government will deliver,” he said.
The cause of the tornadoes appeared to be a series of overnight thunderstorms, including a large one that formed in northeast Arkansas and continued on to Missouri and Tennessee and Kentucky.
A tornado hit the Amazon facility in the city of Edwardsville on Friday evening. Officials said Saturday there had been at least two confirmed fatalities.
At least 100 emergency vehicles headed for the place after a wall the length of an American football field collapsed, according to local media reports.
According to data from logistics analyst MWPVL, the Edwardsville facility, approximately 20 miles from St. Louis, is a 700,000 square foot “non-sortable” fulfillment center.
Such buildings typically employ around 1,000 workers, according to Amazon’s website, but it can be significantly more during the Christmas high season.
“The safety and well-being of our employees and partners are currently the top priority,” said Amazon. “We are assessing the situation and will share additional information as it becomes available.”
Dave Clark, the Amazon manager responsible for his fulfillment network, said on twitter: “Thoughts and prayers tonight go to our team in Edwardsville and thank you to all first responders.”
Edwardsville Police Chief Mike Fillback said it was not known how many people were in the building at the time of the collapse.
“This is a fairly new building so we’re not used to seeing it,” he added when speaking with CBS subsidiary KMOV.
According to the Associated Press, two people were taken from the site by helicopter to the hospital and about 30 workers were taken by bus to a nearby police station for investigation.
“My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight and I have contacted the mayor to raise any government funding needed,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. in a tweet.