Police in Edwardsville, Illinois, said there were “confirmed deaths” at an Amazon warehouse after a direct hit from a tornado caused much of the building to collapse Friday night, causing “catastrophic damage to a large portion” of the building.
The number of dead was not immediately known. On Saturday morning, police said they had informed the next of kin.
“Right now, what we’re concerned about is trying to get people who are trapped,” Herbert Simmons, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, said late Friday.
Police did not immediately know how many workers were inside the building when the tornado struck around 8:30 p.m. Friday, but Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fellback told KDSK-TV in St. Louis on Saturday morning that the number was not. In the hundreds.
Search and rescue operations were ongoing as responders worked to “ensure that everyone who was working at the time is held accountable,” Fillback’s chief said. He said a bus was carrying several workers to reunite with their families at nearby Boonton Beach.
The tornado caused a wall the size of a football field in the warehouse to collapse, along with the roof above it, according to the Associated Press.
“The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now,” Richard Rocha, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement Friday evening, according to the Associated Press. information when it is available.
Amazon opened two warehouses in Edwardsville, about 25 miles east of St. Louis, in 2016, employing about 2,200 people, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2017.