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Rescue crews comb through wreckage after tornadoes rip through central US

A family digs through the remains of their apartment in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.
A family digs through the remains of their apartment in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Copyright AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
Copyright AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
By Euronews with AP
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The governor of the state of Kentucky said upwards of 70 may have been killed when a tornado touched down for more than 320 kilometres.

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Rescuers combed through debris left after tornadoes ripped through the central United States.

The severe weather left scores of people dead, flattening homes and workplaces.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said Sunday morning that the state’s toll could exceed 100 but revised it down to 50 later in the day.

One twister touched down for more than than 320 kilometres in Kentucky.

If early reports are confirmed, the twister “will likely go down perhaps as one of the longest track violent tornadoes in United States history,” said Victor Genzini, a researcher on extreme weather at Northern Illinois University.

Kentucky's death toll is expected to be the highest. Illinois reported six deaths, where an Amazon facility was hit; Tennessee reported four; Arkansas two, where a nursing home was destroyed; and Missouri two.

The wreckage included destroyed buildings, downed power lines and wrecked vehicles. Windows and roofs were blown off the buildings that were still standing.

In Mayfield, Kentucky's county seat, a candle factory where 110 people were working overnight was flattened. Forty of them were initially rescued, raising fears that the death toll at the factory would be counted in dozens.

But on Sunday, the candle company said that while eight were confirmed dead and eight remained missing, more than 90 others had been located.

“We had to, at times, crawl over casualties to get to live victims,” said Jeremy Creason, the city’s fire chief and EMS director.

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, an employee at the candle factory, told NBC that it was "absolutely the most terrifying" event she had ever experienced. “I did not think I was going to make it at all."

Just before the tornado struck, the building’s lights flickered. She felt a gust of wind, her ears started popping and then, “Boom. Everything came down on us.” People started screaming, and she heard other workers praying.

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

US President Joe Biden pledged to help the affected states: "I promise you, whatever is needed, whatever is needed, the federal government is going to find a way to provide it," Biden said.

Several states across the central United States impacted

In Illinois, at least six people were killed when an Amazon warehouse collapsed. Another 45 people survived but authorities were not sure if anyone was still unaccounted for.

"This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners," Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been trying to organise workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama, criticised the company for keeping the Illinois site open during a weather emergency.

At least two people died in Missouri, the governor's office said, and hundreds of homes and buildings were damaged.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s office said the storms killed at least two people in the state and initial assessments indicate they destroyed or did major damage to hundreds of homes and buildings.

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AP Photo/Michael Clubb
A car sits in the debris caused by a tornado in Bowling Green, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.AP Photo/Michael Clubb

In Arkansas, a tornado struck a nursing home in Monette, killing one and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press.

Another person died when the storm hit a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

“Probably the most remarkable thing is that there’s not a greater loss of life,” Hutchinson said after touring the wreckage of the nursing home. “It is catastrophic. It’s a total destruction.”

Four storm-related deaths were confirmed in northwestern Tennessee, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said.

“This is about the saddest thing I've ever seen,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said after touring the community of Dresden, which saw its downtown corridor ripped apart. “The whole town, the whole town.”

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