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Tornado toll climbs to 88 dead



(Mayfield) Authorities in Kentucky expressed relative relief on Monday that they found alive around 100 workers at a candle factory destroyed by one of the devastating tornadoes that ravaged the southern and central United States, and killed at least 88 people.

The MCP candle factory in the devastated small town of Mayfield was the subject of all worries: the modern building, where 110 employees were supposed to be located on Friday night, had been transformed by the elements into a tangle of joists and of twisted sheets, giving rise to fear of a very heavy toll.

But the company, after frantic searches in the rubble, was able to confirm that 94 of its employees were “alive and have been found”, announced Monday morning the governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear.

“We feared it would be much worse,” he told a press conference, seeing it as a “glimmer of hope” as eight people died during the destruction of the factory and eight remain missing.

A hundred rescuers, some from neighboring states, were busy Monday to free any survivors still trapped under the pile of rubble. Crane, excavators cleared the largest debris alongside rescuers, who used their bare hands.

US President Joe Biden, who assured “does not want to interfere” with relief operations, will visit the site Wednesday, as well as in the city of Dawson Springs, a hundred kilometers away, to assess the damage.

Three days after the disaster, during which around 30 tornadoes wreaked havoc on the southern and central United States, Governor Beshear also announced Monday afternoon that at least 74 residents had lost their lives in the only state of Kentucky.

He also announced, during this press briefing, that 109 were still missing in his State.

The victims are aged from 5 months to 86 years, he had specified in the morning, very moved, warning that it would perhaps be necessary to wait “weeks” before having a final toll of deaths and damage.

“Like the people of western Kentucky, I’m not doing very well today,” he said, his throat tight.

In addition, 14 deaths were recorded in the neighboring states of Tennessee (4), Illinois (6), Missouri (2) and Arkansas (2), this exceptional weather phenomenon having affected six states.

Gutted buildings

In Mayfield, devastated, fallen trees and torn facades rub shoulders with buildings razed to the ground by the force of the storm.

“We worked so many years for all that, and it went up in smoke,” Randy Guennel, 79-year-old retiree told AFP who said he had “no more house, no more car, no more nothing “.

Joe Biden declared a state of major disaster in Kentucky on Sunday, unlocking more federal aid.

“We will be present to allow the population to recover and rebuild,” Alejandro Mayorkas, US Minister of Homeland Security, promised Monday morning on CNN television.

“The reconstruction is underway. It’s not a matter of weeks or months, it’s something that will last for years, ”Governor Andy Beshear warned.

Mr. Biden lamented “one of the worst series of tornadoes” in the country’s history and called their devastation “unimaginable tragedy.”

Elsewhere in Kentucky, but also in neighboring states, these scenes of destruction were repeated: flattened houses, gutted buildings, metal structures twisted by the violence of the wind. The streets were littered with overturned vehicles, torn trees and strewn bricks.

At least six people were killed in an Amazon warehouse whose roof collapsed in Edwardsville, Ill., Where rescuers were continuing their search at the end of the weekend.

Federal disaster response agencies have started deploying their teams to the devastated areas.

“New standard”

The United States faces a “new standard” of multiplication of devastating weather events, the head of the US disaster management agency (FEMA), Deanne Criswell, warned on Sunday.

She particularly underlined the “incredibly unusual” and “historical” dimension of these tornadoes for this season, the month of December being usually rather spared by such events in the United States.

Mr. Biden had, him, stressed Saturday that the meteorological phenomena were “more intense” with the warming of the planet, without however establishing a direct causal link between climate change and the disaster which has grieved the country.

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