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Kentucky tornado - latest: Biden takes aerial tour of wreckage as survivors plead for more temporary housing

‘It’s incredible how y’all step up,’ Biden told Kentuckians on Wednesday. ‘I’m going to make sure the federal government steps up.’

Megan Sheets
Wednesday 15 December 2021 21:46 GMT
Watch live as Biden travels to Kentucky to survey tornado damage

President Joe Biden traveled to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey wreckage left in the wake of the tornadoes that wrought havoc in six states last weekend.

The death toll from the devastating tornado outbreak stands at 89 across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, including 13 children.

Seventy-five people have been confirmed dead in Kentucky alone after a massive twister roared across the landscape for at least 200 miles. Bowling Green sustained some of the worst damage, with 17 fatalities confirmed so far. Eleven of those - including seven children - were reported on a single street.

Governor Andy Beshear has said the death toll will “undoubtedly” rise as more than 100 people remain missing.

After touring the hard-hit towns of Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Mr Biden announced the federal government will cover 100 per cent of emergency costs for 30 days. “It’s incredible how y’all step up,” he told survivors. “I’m going to make sure the federal government steps up.”

It comes as some of the thousands of Kentuckians who lost their homes in the storms raised alarm about a shortage of temporary housing across the state, with one lamenting: “We need places to go.”


Recovery efforts continue for a fifth day

We’re back with more live updates on recovery efforts following last weekend’s devastating tornado outbreak.

As of Wednesday morning, 88 people have been confirmed dead across five states, including 13 children.

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 13:45

Kentucky death toll stands at 74

More than 100 people are still unaccounted for on top of the 74 Kentuckians who were confirmed dead after a tornado ripped through the state last Friday.

“If there’s good news, it’s that our death count has not gone up since yesterday,” Governor Andy Beshear said during a press briefing on Tuesday. He added that eight of the dead remain unidentified or their identities have not yet been released to the public.

“The age range has gotten even harder,” the governor said. “It ranges now from two months to 98 years of the Kentuckians that we have lost.”

“There are unquestionably more than 100 people that are still unaccounted for, but multiple local and federal search and rescue missions continue,” he added.

The Independent’s Gustaf Kilander reports:

Kentucky tornado: More than 100 still missing and 74 dead, governor says

Ages of the dead range from two months to 98 years, Andy Beshear says

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 13:51

More tornadoes are possible this week across a central region of the United States, forecasters said on Tuesday.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma reported a slight risk of severe thunderstorms over Iowa and southern Minnesota.

The band of strong storms is expected to develop over the mid-Missouri Valley on Wednesday afternoon, an area which encompasses Kansas City, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska, and Sioux City, Iowa, and is no stranger to tornadoes.

As evening falls, the storm system will then move quickly towards the upper Mississippi Valley, an area which covers the south-eastern corner of Minnesota, just below Minneapolis, and also parts of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

“Damaging wind gusts and a couple of tornadoes will be possible,” the forecasters noted. The Independent’s chief climate correspondent Louise Boyle reports:

More tornadoes possible days after at least 88 killed in storms

Powerful, damaging winds also expected over central regions following storms that killed at least 88 people

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 14:04

University of Kentucky telethon raises $3m in four hours

A telethon hosted by the University of Kentucky Athletics has raised more than $3m in donations with matching funds to benefit victims of last weekend’s deadly tornadoes in western Kentucky.

Donations had reached $3,031,241 with more coming in as the four-hour “Kentucky United for Tornado Relief” telethon concluded Tuesday night at the university’s Kroger Field football stadium.

The total included $50,000 from Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtman, a Nicholasville, Kentucky, native.

Proceeds from the telethon will go to the American Red Cross.

Meanwhile, the state’s Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund reached $9.89m from over 66,800 donations as of midday Tuesday, Governor Andy Beshear said.

'Kentucky United' telethon raises $3M for tornado victims

A telethon hosted by the University of Kentucky Athletics has raised more than $3m in donations with matching funds to benefit victims of last weekend’s deadly tornadoes in western Kentucky

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 14:24

MMA fighter rescues wife and sister-in-law from candle factory wreckage

An MMA fighter helped rescue his wife, sister-in-law and others from the wreckage of a Mayfield, Kentucky, candle factory that was destroyed by a tornado.

Brian Brooks said the tornado narrowly missed his home before he received a call from his wife, who was at the Mayfield Consumer Products facility.

“She calls and tells me she loves me, that she’s trapped, and they’re smashed. And she hung up,” he told Fox News.

Mr Brooks rushed to the factory to find it had been reduced to a pile of rubble. “It was like the worst war movie you see on TV. The people that were screaming that you could not see in the dark,” he said.

He sprang into action pulling workers to safety, including his wife and his sister.

“They didn’t think they were ever going to see us again,” Mr Brooks said. “I’m so grateful … I just want to say my prayers for everybody who wasn’t so lucky.”

Eight out of roughly 100 people at the factory were confirmed dead in the wake of the twister. The Independent’s Harriet Sinclair reports:

Workers in razed Mayfield factory reveal terror amid tornado damage

‘We all just rocked back and forth, and then boom, everything fell on us’

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 14:44

Candle factory where eight workers died faces investigation

Governor Andy Beshear on Tuesday confirmed that Kentucky’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (KY OSH) will investigate the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory where eight workers were killed by a tornado.

At least four workers claimed they were told they would be fired if they tried to leave their shifts early as warning sirens began to wail.

Asked about a state investigation, Gov Beshear said: “After seeing a tornado like this, we all have to look back at protocols to see what we can do better. I haven’t seen any direct accounts from the candle factory, that’s obviously something people are going to look at.

“Hopefully they did everything right. If they didn’t, that will come out. Absolutely the state will look through it.”

The governor emphasised that KY OSH investigates all workplace fatalities, saying: “It shouldn’t suggest that there was any wrongdoing but it should give people confidence that we will get to the bottom of it.”

The Independent’s Io Dodds explains factory workers’ claims:

Kentucky tornado: Candle factory workers ‘threatened with firing’ if they left early

Spokesperson for Mayfield Consumer Products denies claims and says workers were free to leave any time they chose

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 15:10

What we know about the tornado victims

Deaths have been confirmed in at least five of the six states hit by a number of tornadoes over the weekend. The death toll is feared to be more than 100 in Kentucky alone, but casualties have also been reported in Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, with fatalities confirmed in all but one of the states.

At least 88 people have died in five states, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

While at least eight of the victims remain unidentified, The Independent’s Gustaf Kilander explains what we know so far:

Who are the victims of the Kentucky tornadoes devastating the midwest?

‘She was a kid raising a kid. We were just like best friends. It’s crazy how close you become,’ son says of mother killed by tornado

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 15:30

Thirteen children confirmed dead

Thirteen children have been confirmed dead in the wake of last weekend’s storm, including 12 in Kentucky:

Bowling Green, Warren County

  • Nariah Cayshell Brown, 16
  • Nyles Brown, 4
  • Nolynn Brown, age not specified
  • Selmir Besic, age not specified
  • Elma Besic, age not specified
  • Samantha Besic, infant
  • Alma Besic, infant

Mayfield, Graves County

  • Jha’lil Lee Dunbar, 3
  • Marilyn Gingerich, 7
  • Daniel Gingerich, 4

Dawson Springs, Hopkins/Caldwell counties

  • Oaklynn Koon, 2 months

Muhlenberg County

  • Chase Oglesby, 5 months

The 13th child killed was nine-year-old Annistyn Rackley of Caruthersville, Missouri.

Megan Sheets15 December 2021 16:20

Biden arrives in Kentucky to survey tornado damage

President Joe Biden arrived in Kentucky on Wednesday morning to tour tornado damage with Governor Andy Beshear.

He was seen stepping off of Air Force One at Fort Campbell, where he was greeted by the governor, first lady Britainy Beshear and former governor Steve Beshear.

President Biden arrives in Kentucky to survey tornado damage
Megan Sheets15 December 2021 16:23

WATCH: Biden tours wreckage

Watch live as Biden travels to Kentucky to survey tornado damage
Megan Sheets15 December 2021 16:50

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