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More than 70 dead in Kentucky as storms batter five US states

Martin Bolton (L) and shop owner Danny Wagner try to shut off a leaking gas meter after his automobile repair shop was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021

Tornadoes ripped through five US states overnight, leaving more than 70 people dead Saturday in Kentucky and causing multiple fatalities at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that suffered “catastrophic damage” with around 100 people trapped inside.

The western Kentucky town of Mayfield was “ground zero” of the storm — a scene of “massive devastation,” one official said.

“We were pretty sure that we would lose over 50 Kentuckians. I’m now certain that that number is north of 70. It may in fact end up exceeding 100 before the day is done,” Governor Andy Beshear told a midday press conference in Mayfield.

At least one person died when a tornado “pretty much destroyed” a nursing home in the Arkansas town of Monette, a county official said. Another person died elsewhere in the state, local media reported.

President Joe Biden tweeted that the massive storms had inflicted an “unimaginable tragedy” on the area and vowed to provide all needed federal aid. 

“At first, you know, we were just hearing the rain,” she told CNN, “and all of a sudden, it was just very loud like a train.

One tornado, which first touched down in Missouri, smashed along the ground for over 200 miles in Kentucky, Governor Beshear said. 

Images of the latest tornadoes from US news channels showed dark black cylinders sweeping across the ground, illuminated by intermittent flashes of lightning. 

“Mayfield in Graves County will be ground zero,” Kentucky emergency management director Michael Dossett told CNN early Saturday. “The city took… the hardest hit. There is massive devastation,” he said.

Around 200,000 homes in Kentucky and Tennessee were left without power, according to PowerOutage.com.  

On the same night a storm ripped through a massive Amazon warehouse in the state of Illinois where around 100 workers were trapped inside, local media reported.

Footage shared across US news channels and social media of the Amazon warehouse showed a large part of the facility’s roof ripped off, while one of the walls had collapsed into the building. 

In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said “the safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now. We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available.”

Craighead county official Marvin Day told local news channels that rescuers had successfully pulled out those trapped in the building and the structure was “pretty much destroyed.”

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