US President Joseph Biden has declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky after dozens are feared dead following devastating tornadoes. The head of state has thus provided for the highest type of aid possible in light of the severity of the event.
A major disaster declaration differs from a mere disaster declaration in that the latter has a US $ 5 million caps in aid, while as per Biden's wording there is no such limit to provide a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.
Biden has thus approved a request from the State's Governor Andy Beshear after at least 48 people have been confirmed killed across multiple states after twisters destroyed homes and businesses on Friday, according to local authorities.
Beshear had previously said the number of fatalities was at least 70 but the figure was then revised downwards only to be rewritten when the case of a candle factory in Mayfield was reported. Authorities said they have little hope of finding survivors under rubble - but rescue workers continued to scour fields of debris.
Kentucky was the worst-hit state, but at least 14 others were killed in four other states: 6 in Illinois, 4 in Tennessee, 2 in Arkansas and the other 2 in Missouri.
Biden had first declared the tornadoes a federal emergency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been assisting in the aftermath as thousands face housing, food, water and power shortages. But under an emergency declaration, assistance is limited to $5m, according to the agency's website. A major disaster declaration has no such limit.
FEMA's response included the opening of shelters as well as sending teams and supplies, including 30,000 meals and drinking water. In the town of Mayfield, a candle factory was destroyed along with the local fire and police stations. Some 40 workers needed to be rescued from the factory where 110 people were believed to have been inside at the time of the tornado. In the town with a population of about 10,000, homes were flattened and trees had been uprooted.
The death toll climbed back to 80 Sunday in the state of Kentucky. Most deaths occurred at the candle factory. “I know we've lost more than 80 Kentuckians,” Beshear told CNN. “That number is going to exceed more than 100. This is the deadliest tornado event we've ever had.”
Beshear said it will “be a miracle if we pull anyone more out” of the candle factory. “I’m not sure we’re going to see another rescue,” he said. “We’ve been hit in a way we couldn’t imagine.”
Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason, said, “we had to, at times, crawl over casualties to get to live victims.”
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said Saturday that six people were killed when a tornado hit an Amazon warehouse Friday night, causing the building to collapse. 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.