Kentucky governor wants aftermath of tornadoes to be declared major federal disaster by US government

US

The aftermath of a string of deadly tornadoes in Kentucky should be declared a major federal disaster by the US government, the state’s governor is reported to have told Washington officials.

Democrat Andy Beshear has formally made the request, according to Deanne Criswell, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which responds to disasters in America.

If the request is granted, it would pave the way for extra resources to be provided to the state.

Kentucky officials fear more than 100 people have been killed after twisters destroyed homes and businesses on Friday.

Authorities said they have little hope of finding survivors under rubble, but rescue workers continued to scour fields of debris.

Governor Beshear said the number of bodies found in four counties in the state will each be in double figures.

Kentucky was the worst-hit state by far, but at least 14 people were killed in four other states.

More on Kentucky

Six people died after an Amazon distribution centre was hit in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Four lost their lives in Tennessee, while two others died in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed, and there were two further fatalities in Missouri.

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Amazon warehouse hit by tornado

President Joe Biden has already declared the tornadoes a federal emergency and FEMA is 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 the agency’s website.

Emergency services sift through debris near an overturned school bus in Mayfield, Kentucky, in the aftermath of tornadoes. Pic: AP
Image:
Emergency services sift through debris near an overturned school bus in Mayfield, Kentucky, in the aftermath of tornadoes. Pic: AP

A major disaster declaration has no such limit and “provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work,” said the website.

Ms Criswell has called the magnitude of the tornadoes “historic.”

A tornado that carved a path of destruction in Kentucky touched down for a potentially record-breaking distance of more than 200 miles.

As part of FEMA’s response, it was opening up shelters and sending teams and supplies, including 30,000 meals and 45,000 litres of water.

One of the worst hit places was the town of Mayfield, where a candle factory was destroyed along with the fire and police stations.

The governor said about 40 workers were rescued at the factory. About 110 people were believed to have been inside when it was struck.

In the town with a population of about 10,000 people, homes were flattened or missing roofs, and large trees had been uprooted.

Mayfield resident Jamel Alubahr, 25, said his three-year-old nephew died and his sister was in the hospital with a skull fracture after being stuck under the rubble of their home.

“It all happened in the snap of a finger,” said Mr Alubahr, who is now staying with another sister in Mayfield.

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Kentucky city flattened by tornado

Another resident Laurie Lopez, 53, was sent a tornado alert on her phone about 20 minutes before her whole house started to shake.

She took cover in a hallway with her 19-year-old daughter and their two dogs.

She said: “Soon the (window) glass just burst in, we could hear it flying. I have it like all over my bedroom.”

The tornado “sounded like a freight train going through a brick house,” she added.

The front of their two-storey home appeared to have completely collapsed and part of the roof came down on to the lawn.

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