(Mayfield) US President Joe Biden on Sunday night declared a state of major disaster in Kentucky, which has become a symbol of the devastation caused by tornadoes that have killed at least 94 people in several states across the country.
The announcement, made at the request of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, will help unlock more federal aid. The president intends to be there as soon as possible.
Biden had previously lamented “one of the worst series of hurricanes” in the nation’s history, calling its destruction an “unimaginable tragedy.” Research continues to try to locate survivors, but several officials have warned that the number could rise.
This extraordinary meteorological phenomenon crossed six states, leaving a trail of destruction for hundreds of miles, but Mayfield, a town of about 10,000 people in Kentucky, was the worst. Kentucky alone has killed more than 80 people, many of them in a candle factory.
“Remember, we’re still finding bodies. We have dead dogs in cities they shouldn’t be in,” Governor Andy Bashir said. Hurricanes have infected at least 80 people and displaced thousands, he said.
Mayfield Consumer Products’ candle factory is nothing more than a tangle of twisted joists and sheet metal, stacked several meters high. Rescuers, equipped with cranes and bulldozers, searched the ruins on Sunday.
About 110 employees were working at the plant Friday night to meet demand for the holiday season, when everything was swept away by a hurricane. Dozens of people are still missing.
Troy Probus, general manager of the company that owns the plant, defended his decision not to close the plant as the storm approached. “We did everything we had to do,” he told CNN on Sunday. “My heart bleeds for everyone.”
“It destroys everything.”
“Words” by Jason Richento, a volunteer firefighter, fail to describe the devastation of the site. “We dug up the rubble yesterday, I spent eight hours there, the night before work until four in the morning. I have never seen anything like this in my life.”
Stephen Boykin, a pastor at a local church, and a few others rushed to the scene Friday night to participate in operations and “rest.”
People were screaming, and they were afraid. Hold the hands of those who were stuck under a brick wall.”
“We got an alert at 9:30 a.m. We were told the tornado was coming. It came and went like this, all of a sudden,” David Norsworthy, 69, told AFP outside the porch of his destroyed home in Mayfield. Where it strikes, it destroys everything.”
Elsewhere in Kentucky, but also in Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Arkansas, there were the same scenes of splayed constructions, wrecked buildings, twisted metal infrastructure, overturned vehicles, torn trees, and bricks strewn across the streets. Mississippi was also affected.
At least six people have been killed at an Amazon warehouse whose roof has collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois. Rescuers also continued their search there on Sunday.
Tennessee has recorded four deaths, two people have died in Arkansas, while at least two more deaths are booed in Missouri.
Federal disaster response agencies are beginning to deploy in the affected areas.
“We will do everything we can to help,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mallorcas, who visited the site on Sunday. “We will stay until the reconstruction is completed,” he added.
Messages of sympathy poured in from abroad. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday offered his “deepest condolences,” as the pope directed his prayers to Kentuckians from St. Peter’s Square.
Especially this violent meteorological phenomenon affects the vast American plains. In amateur videos captured Friday night, we see these massive black plumes sweeping across the Earth, illuminated by intermittent lightning.
Kentucky swept over 200 miles (320 kilometers) with one of the longest recorded tornadoes in the United States, according to its governor. The longest tracked flight on Earth, over 219 miles, occurred in 1925 in Missouri, killing 695 people.
About thirty of these storms swept the country on Friday evening.
Dean Cresswell, head of the US Disaster Management Agency (FEMA), warned Sunday that the United States faces a “new standard” as devastating weather events spread.
In particular, she emphasized the “incredibly unusual” and “historic” dimension of these hurricanes for this season. December is usually avoided by such events in the United States.
Mr. Biden, for his part, had stressed the day before that the meteorological phenomenon was “more severe” with global warming, but without establishing a direct causal link between climate change and the disaster inflicted on the country.