A U.S. flag hangs from a tree as two women carry items recovered from tornado wreckage in Mayfield, Kentucky, Dec. 12, 2021.
The death toll mounted Sunday from an unseasonal string of U.S. tornadoes that swept through six Southern and Midwestern states late Friday even as one emergency official expressed hope that more survivors would be found.
The destruction was the worst in the state of Kentucky, with the death toll already at 80. Many of the deaths occurred when a twister leveled a candle factory.
The violent tornadoes, unusual in December in the United States, tore a 365-kilometer path through Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky, but the destruction stretched through 321 kilometers in Kentucky.
“I know we’ve lost more than 80 Kentuckians,” Governor Andy Beshear told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “That number is going to exceed more than 100. This is the deadliest tornado event we’ve ever had.”
Beshear said it will “be a miracle if we pull anyone more out” of the candle factory debris in the small Kentucky town of Mayfield. He said only 40 of the 110 people working at the factory have been rescued.
“I’m not sure we’re going to see another rescue,” he said. “We’ve been hit in a way we couldn’t imagine.”
But Deanne Criswell, chief of the country’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN that rescue efforts are continuing.
Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, Dec. 11, 2021, after it was destroyed by a tornado.