Kentucky resumes counting the dead from barrage of tornadoes
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has estimated the death toll from the Friday disaster at 80 and likely to rise to more than 100 but held out hope the number of missing at a destroyed candle factory was much lower than previously believed.
MAYFIELD, Ky., Dec 13 (Reuters) - Rescue workers resumed combing through debris on Monday in the scant hope of finding survivors from a battery of deadly tornadoes that tore through six states, with Kentucky officials trying to determine just how many people died.
President Joe Biden on Sunday declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky, paving the way for additional federal aid, the White House said. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear formally requested the declaration earlier in the day.
Beshear has estimated the death toll from the Friday disaster at 80 and likely to rise to more than 100 but held out hope the number of missing at a destroyed candle factory was much lower than previously believed, possibly resulting in a downward revision of the toll.
The factory was in Mayfield, a town of about 10,000 in the southwestern corner of Kentucky, where a tornado destroyed not only the candle factory but also the police and fire stations. Homes were flattened or missing roofs, giant trees uprooted and street signs mangled.
Up to 70 of the 110 people working at the factory had been feared dead, but a company spokesman on Sunday put the number at 16 at most, saying eight workers at the site were confirmed dead and eight were missing.
"There were some early reports that as many as 70 could be dead in the factory. One is too many, but we thank God that the number is turning out to be far, far fewer," said Bob Ferguson, a spokesperson for Mayfield Consumer Products LLC.
Earlier Sunday, Beshear would not confirm a lower death toll but said unverified information from the company could be "the miracle we were hoping for."
Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman and local officials were scheduled to tour storm damage in Taylor County early Monday and brief reporters in the city of Campbellsville, about 200 miles east of Mayfield.
While Kentucky was hardest hit, six workers were killed at an Amazon.com Inc warehouse in Illinois after the plant buckled under the force of the tornado, including one cargo driver who died in the bathroom, where many workers told Reuters they had been directed to shelter.
A nursing home was struck in Arkansas, causing one of that state's two deaths. Four were reported dead in Tennessee and two in Missouri.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter Editing by Robert Birsel)