Published on : Monday, December 13, 2021
Rescuers were forced to crawl over the dead to get to the living at a Kentucky candle factory walloped by a tornado, part of an unusual cluster that killed dozens in the Midwest and South and flattened whole towns.
By the time churchgoers gathered Sunday morning to pray for the lost, more than 24 hours had elapsed since anyone had been found alive.
Instead, crews recovered pieces of peoples’ lives- a backpack, a pair of shoes and a cellphone with 27 missed messages were among the items.
Still, a definitive death toll remained elusive, though it was expected to be lower than initially feared.
Kentucky was the worst-hit by far in a swarm of twisters across several states, remarkable because they came at a time of year when cold weather normally limits tornadoes. They left at least eight people dead at the state’s Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory and another 12 were reported killed in and around Bowling Green.
At least another 14 people died in Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.
Authorities are still trying to determine the total number of dead amid confusion over how many were able to escape the factory and the difficulties of searching other hard-hit areas.
The twisters made door-to-door searches impossible in some places. There are no doors, said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.
Beshear said Saturday that only 40 of the 110 people working in the candle factory at the time were rescued, and that it’ll be a miracle if anybody else is found alive in it. But on Sunday, the company said that while eight were confirmed dead and eight remained missing, more than 90 others had been located.
Night-shift workers were in the middle of the holiday rush, cranking out candles, when the word went out to seek shelter.
For Autumn Kirks, that meant tossing aside wax and fragrance buckets to make an improvised safe place. She glanced away from her boyfriend, Lannis Ward, who was about 10 feet away at the time. Four twisters hit Kentucky in all, including one with an extraordinarily long path of about 200 miles (322 kilometers), authorities said.
Beshear had said Sunday morning that the state’s toll could exceed 100. But after state officials heard the candle company’s update, he said that afternoon it might be as low as 50. With afternoon high temperatures forecast only in the 40s, tens of thousands of people were without power.
About 300 National Guard members went house to house, checking on people and helping to remove debris. Cadaver dogs searched for victims.
The outbreak also killed at least six people in Illinois, where an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed and the governor said workers shielded residents with their own bodies; and two in Missouri.
Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the “devastating impact” of the tornadoes. In a telegram sent Monday by Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope offered prayers for those who died, comfort to those who mourn their loss and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy.
Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees covered the ground in Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 in western Kentucky.
Twisted sheet metal, downed power lines and wrecked vehicles lined the streets. Windows were blown out and roofs torn off the buildings that were still standing.
In the shadows of their crumpled church sanctuaries, two congregations in Mayfield came together on Sunday to pray for those who were lost.
Tags: Kentucky Tourism