At least 70 people have died in the deadly tornado that struck Kentucky on Friday, New York Times is reporting.
The death toll could rise to more than 100 across about 10 counties, Andy Beshear, governor of Kentucky, said on Saturday.
“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” Mr Beshear said at a news conference in Mayfield, a town of nearly 10,000 people in the state’s western corner, and where most of the tornado’s destruction was centred.
He declared a state of emergency on Friday, and rescuers in counties across the state mobilised overnight to find people trapped in collapsed houses and buildings.
There were four tornadoes that touched down in the state on Friday night, Mr Beshear said, including one that stayed on the ground for 227 miles — 200 of them in Kentucky.
Search and rescue teams were continuing to look for residents door to door, but the destruction made it difficult to reach everyone, the official was quoted as saying by New York Times. “We call it door to door, but in many of those homes, there’s no door anymore,” he said.
In Mayfield, in what may be the single largest loss of life on Friday, 110 workers were trapped inside a candle factory when the tornado roared through in the evening.
About 40 people were rescued, officials said, but the last person found alive was pulled out at 3:30 a.m. Mr Beshear said he expected that “dozens” of others had not survived. Officials at the news conference said the factory had been flattened, and that cars and rubble had blown on top of what remained.
“We’re going to lose a lot of lives in that factory,” Mr Beshear said. “It’s a very dire situation at this point.”
Mike Dossett, Kentucky’s emergency director, was quoted as saying that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending a search team to the candle factory.
The city’s police chief, Nathan Kent, said that Mayfield and surrounding areas affected by the tornado would be under a 7 p.m. curfew.
The biggest challenge in the coming days, he said, will be communication, because the force’s vehicular fleet was “compromised” by the tornado.
About 28,000 people across the state were expected to be without electricity Saturday night.
More than 180 members of the National Guard have been dispatched to assist with the search for survivors and to assist in getting people to safety. The authorities asked residents who are not emergency responders to stay out of the affected areas.
Michael E. Dossett, the director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said the number of storms could surpass the 1974 super outbreak of tornadoes. He also said that the length of one tornado’s track could rival that of the 1925 tornado outbreak that killed hundreds as it cut a path through Southern and Midwestern states.
“It is a significant, massive disaster event,” Mr Dossett said.
President Biden said that he had approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky, allowing federal resources to flow into the state.
“We’re going to get through this, and we’re going to get through this together,” Mr Biden was quoted as saying at a news conference. “The federal government is not going to walk away.”
At least six states — Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee — were hit by tornadoes on Friday night, according to reports from the National Weather Service.
Scientists are not sure whether there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes, in part because of limited data. But researchers say that in recent years, tornadoes seem to be occurring in greater “clusters,” and that a so-called tornado alley in the Great Plains — where most tornadoes occur — appears to be shifting eastward.
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