Teams in western Kentucky are digging through mountains of debris and searching for survivors and bodies after tornadoes ripped through 200 miles of the state Friday night into Saturday.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on Tuesday that 74 people were confirmed killed, while more than 100 remain unaccounted for.
“I still expect that we will find at least some more bodies,” Beshear said. “There is just so much destruction. I hope that that’s not the case, but it’s still an expectation.”
Some people could still succumb to injuries, like a baby the governor said was found alive only to die about a day later.
Twelve of the 74 people who died were children. The victims who have been identified range in age from 2 months to 98 years.
Cleanup efforts continue. Images and videos from the aftermath showed the town of Mayfield completely destroyed, with buildings torn to shreds as far as the eye could see.
“There’s something therapeutic about taking that chaos and destruction and death and getting it out of some of those areas,” Beshear said of getting debris cleaned up.
The governor said they currently have enough volunteers, but those looking to help should give blood, as donations are needed. The Red Cross says it’s facing the worst nationwide blood shortage in over a decade. The Kentucky Blood Center says blood needs at hospitals in western Kentucky have been met, but encouraged donations through the holidays.
The Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, where 110 people were working on a night shift, was decimated by the tornado. The company says eight employees have been confirmed killed, far lower than original estimates, and that all others are alive and accounted for. The governor said officials have not yet confirmed the company’s count, but cadaver dogs searching the wreckage have so far made no additional discoveries.
News reports have said employees at the factory were told not to leave when storms warnings were issued. Beshear said those allegations would be investigated because the state “looks at all fatalities that occur in a workplace.”
Meanwhile, thousands of people have been left homeless in the state. Emergency responders are working to provide food, water and shelter. There are no estimates yet on the number of homes destroyed, though the governor has guessed it is well over 1,000. At least 18,500 are without power across the state.
A relief fund has gathered more than 66,000 donations amounting to more than $9.89 million. “Every bit is going to go to help these families,” Beshear said.
Tornadoes also caused damage and deaths in parts of Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas over the weekend. At least 14 people died across the four states, including six at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Ill., just outside of St. Louis. Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed on Monday that they would investigate the facility.