Violent Storm Leaves Dozens Feared Dead In Kentucky; Illinois Amazon Warehouse Collapses

EDWARDSVILLE, Illinois (AP) – Hurricanes and severe weather caused massive damage in multiple states late Friday, tearing apart a Kentucky candle factory, an Amazon facility in Illinois, a nursing home in Arkansas and several homes and buildings. Dozens of deaths are feared, and many were confirmed on Saturday morning.

So many deaths were feared at the plant in Mayfield, Kentucky, that Governor Andy Beshear described the situation as “tragic” at a Saturday morning news conference.

“There were about 110 people there by the time the cyclone hit it,” Bashir said. “We think the death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentucky and probably end up between 70 and 100.”

“It’s very difficult, really difficult, and we are praying for every one of these families,” the governor added.

First responders surround the damaged Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Michael Thomas via Getty Images

At least one person has died after severe weather hit an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, Police Chief Mike Fellback told reporters Saturday morning. The roof of the building was torn off and a wall the length of a football field collapsed.

Fellback said two people at the facility were flown by helicopter to hospitals in St. Louis for treatment. The president did not know which hospitals they were transferred to or their conditions. Edwardsville is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of St. Louis.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the damage was from straight-line storms or a hurricane, but the National Weather Service office near St. Louis reported “radar-confirmed tornadoes” in the Edwardsville area close to the collapse.

About 30 people who were in the building were taken by bus to the police station in nearby Pontoon Beach for assessment.

Early Saturday, rescue teams were still sorting through the rubble. Fillback said the process could take several more hours. Cranes and bulldozers were brought in to help move the wreckage.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports that the Amazon fulfillment center in Edwardsville opened with two warehouses in 2016, with an area of ​​1.5 million square feet. Warehouses are used to store items until they are shipped to mail-order customers.

“The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our highest priority at this time,” Amazon spokesman Richard Rocha said in a written statement Friday evening. “We are assessing the situation and will share additional information when it becomes available.”

Workers at the National Weather Service office had to take cover when a tornado passed near their office in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of St. Louis. One person was killed and two others injured when buildings collapsed near the towns of Defiance and New Mill, both just a few miles from the weather services office.

A tornado struck the Monnet Manor nursing home in Arkansas Friday night, killing one person and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press.

He said five people were seriously injured, some with minor injuries. The nursing home has 86 beds.

Day said another nursing home about 20 miles (32 kilometers) in Truman was badly damaged but no injuries were reported. Residents were evacuated because the building was unsafe.

Dean Flair, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said three storm-related deaths have been confirmed in Tennessee. Two of the deaths occurred in Lake County, and a third in Obion County — both in the northwest corner of the state.

In Kentucky, several buildings collapsed during the severe weather that hit Mayfield, Sarah Burgess, a Kentucky State Police officer, said.

She said several people were trapped inside a damaged candle factory and that shifting was continuing when the storm hit.

“The whole building has been flattened,” she said.

Far east in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University said on Twitter that emergency crews were assessing significant storm damage and no injuries were immediately reported. However, the school canceled the commencement ceremonies that had been planned for Saturday because the campus was without electricity.

“Obviously we’ve had significant wind damage,” said Ronnie Ward, a spokesman for Bowling Green Police, in a phone interview.

Rescue efforts at Bowling Green and elsewhere were hampered by debris strewn across the roads. Ward said many apartment complexes in Bowling Green suffered significant structural damage and some factories collapsed during the storms.

“Right now, we’re focused on citizens, trying to reach everyone who needs us,” Ward said.

Reported by Jablon from Los Angeles. Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. Associated Press reporters Bruce Schreiner in Frankfurt, Kentucky, John Rabe in Charleston, West Virginia, and Jeff McMurray in Chicago contributed to this report.

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