Biden declares emergency, promises aid for tornado-ravaged Kentucky

Walls sit on crushed vehicles at the Amazon Hub in Edwardsville, Ill., on Saturday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
1 of 5 | Walls sit on crushed vehicles at the Amazon Hub in Edwardsville, Ill., on Saturday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden Saturday declared an emergency in Kentucky and ordered federal assistance to supplement the state and local response in recovery efforts after storms killed as many as 70.

Tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding rocked Kentucky and the Midwest late Friday and early Saturday where dozens remained missing.


Biden ordered the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in several Kentucky counties and said he stood "ready to do the same for the governors of other states."

The president told reporters Saturday he will ask Congress to approve the necessary funding, calling the devastation "profound" and a "tragedy" which is "likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history."

"We still don't know how many lives were lost or the full extent of the damage," he said. "I say to all the victims, you're in our prayers, and to the first responders and emergency personnel, this is the right thing to do at the right time. We're going to get through this."


The president spoke with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear along with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about their storm damage and to offer assistance.

Beshear, at a late afternoon news conference, offered a dire assessment of the situation at a candle manufacturing factory in Mayfield, Ky., that was destroyed on Friday night. Officials said 70 people remained missing at the facility, but the governor indicated he was not optimistic after touring the devastation.

"One hundred ten people working in it at the time the storm hit, they rescued 40," he said. "At least 15 feet of metal with cars on top of it, barrels of corrosive chemicals were there. It'll be a miracle if anybody else is found alive."

The governor, who had earlier declared a state of emergency and activated the Kentucky National Guard, called the destruction in the southwest portion of the state "the worst, most devastating, most deadly tornado event in Kentucky's history."

It was part of a string of deadly storms that stretched from Texas to Indiana Friday night and Saturday morning, leaving damaged buildings, overturned vehicles and downed powerlines in its wake.


Fire officials confirmed late Saturday that six people died from tornadoes at a collapsed Amazon warehouse facility in Edwardsville, Ill.

Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford told reporters that 45 people made it out of the warehouse without serious injury while one other victim was airlifted to a regional hospital for treatment.

"This is a tragic day in Illinois history," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at the Madison County, Ill., Public Safety Building, adding "there are no words" to remedy the grief of the victims' families.

"Please know that the people of Illinois stand with you," he said.

The tornado outbreak across the Midwest and South after nightfall Friday caused a wide range of damage from Texas to Indiana, affecting some 16 million people across nine states, according to AccuWeather.

The storm was blamed for widespread power outages Saturday morning. By late afternoon, 56,000 homes and businesses remained without power Tennessee, 78,000 in Kentucky and another 65,000 in Ohio, according to Power

At least two people died from storm-related causes in Missouri, according to Gov. Parson's office. They included a woman who was killed at home in St. Charles County and young child who died in Pemiscot County.


At least nine people were transported to hospitals in Pemiscot County, which is in the southeast corner of the state bordering both Tennessee and Arkansas.

One person died after another tornado damaged a nursing home in the Jonesboro, Ark., area. Craighead County officials said five people were seriously injured and at least 20 trapped at the Monette Nursing Home.

Several semi-trailer trucks were overturned on Interstate 55 near Caruthersville, Mo., from a tornado while another death was reported in Leachville, Ark., after a twister heavily damaged several buildings.

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