A devastating tornado outbreak ripped through Kentucky and several other U.S. states, killing dozens of people and leaving a trail of destroyed buildings along a path that stretched more than 200 miles, officials said on Saturday.
At least four tornadoes touched down overnight across Kentucky, causing significant damage in more than a dozen counties. The primary tornado travelled more than 227 miles across the state, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said.
The death toll could exceed 50 people and could reach up to 100 people, he told an early morning news conference.
“The reports are really heartbreaking,” he said. “This has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history and some areas have been hit in ways that is hard to put into words.”
Some of the worst destruction was in Mayfield in western Kentucky. About 110 people were inside a candle factory in the area when the tornado ripped through, taking down the roof, Beshear said.
“It is tragic. We believe we will lose at least dozens of those individuals,” he said.
Video and photos posted on social media but not yet verified as authentic by Reuters showed brick buildings in downtown Mayfield reduced to rubble, with parked cars nearly buried under bricks and debris. The steeple on the Graves County courthouse in Mayfield appeared to have been toppled, photos on Twitter showed.
In the early hours, more than 56,000 people in Kentucky were without power, Beshear said. He declared a state of emergency and was deploying dozens of national guardsman to communities.
“It appears that this is going to be a quad state event, all out of the same system, originating in Arkansas, through Missouri, Tennessee and into Kentucky,” Kentucky Emergency management director Michael Dorsett said.
Damage in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois
In Illinois, police said there were “confirmed fatalities” after a roof partially collapsed at an Amazon.com Inc warehouse in the town of Edwardsville late on Friday.
Rescue workers were searching for people trapped in the rubble.
Drone footage of the warehouse showed a chaotic scene in the early morning dark, with hundreds of emergency vehicles around the area, and rescuers with flashlights combing through debris.
The roof appeared to have been peeled back like tissue off a metal skeleton of the building.
In Tennessee, the severe weather killed at least three people, said Dean Flener, spokesman for the state’s Emergency Management Agency. Flener said two died in Lake County and one in Obion County, but did not have any information about the circumstances of the deaths.
At least one person was killed and five were injured when a tornado shredded the roof of a nursing home in Monette in northern Arkansas, the Washington Post quoted local officials as saying.
The storms caused a CSX company freight train to derail in western Kentucky, although it said no injuries were reported, the New York Times said.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said it received 36 reports of tornadoes touching down in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas.