U.S. President Joe Biden has declared Kentucky in a state of major disaster, which was hit by a series of tornadoes on Friday, causing massive property damage and killing dozens of people.
The decision of the head of the American state paved the way for further assistance from the federal mechanism to the state.
The governor of Kentucky, Andy Besiar, had submitted a formal request to the White House earlier Sunday to declare a major catastrophe in his state, the head of FEMA, the federal emergency response service, told reporters.
Mr. Biden accepted the request last night (Greek time this morning).
Governor Besiar stressed that the tornadoes were the most destructive in the history of his state and that even solid steel and brick building structures were leveled. One of the tornadoes wreaked havoc 365 kilometers, almost all in Kentucky, he added.
The city of Mayfield was almost completely leveled, suffering the greatest damage from the rare meteorological phenomenon that left at least 94 dead.
The Democratic president had already described the tornadoes as a “state of emergency” for the federal state, which allowed FEMA to get involved. But in “emergency” situations the cost of the service can not exceed 5 million dollars, while in cases of major disaster there is no such limit.
This will allow the federal agency to help thousands of people who are no longer homeless, food, water, electricity…
At the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, which became a symbol of disaster, the search for survivors continued desperately yesterday. Only a pile of debris, several meters high, remained from the installation. With the help of cranes and construction machinery, rescue teams searched methodically to find survivors, but hopes were dashed.
– WxChasing- Brandon Clement (@bclemms) December 11, 2021
Fears that the dead will exceed 100 – “We still find corpses”
Some 110 workers were at the factory on Friday night to meet the growing demand for the holidays. Dozens are still missing.
For volunteer firefighter Jason Riccido, “there are no words” to describe the disaster. “We dug up the wreckage yesterday, I was here for eight hours, the day before we worked until four in the morning. “I have never seen such a thing in my whole life,” he confessed.
Governor Besiar said the owner of the destroyed factory had raised hopes that some might have left and found workers alive, adding that it would be “wonderful” if the death toll was revised downwards, but did not confirm this.
“We are still finding corpses. “We have developed dogs specially trained to locate corpses in cities where they should not be,” he said bitterly, warning that the toll could be even heavier, with more than 100 dead in his state alone.
Except for Kentucky, in the states of Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas, the images were similar: buildings leveled, metal structures turned into amorphous masses, trees uprooted, bricks and debris scattered everywhere, cars overturned. The state of Mississippi was also affected.
“We will do everything in our power to help,” promised Interior Minister Alejandro Mallorca, who toured the affected areas on Sunday. “We will stay until the reconstruction is completed,” he insisted.
Messages from the international community
Messages of sympathy continued to arrive from abroad yesterday, including from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who expressed his “sincere condolences,” and from Pope Francis, who prayed for the victims in St. Peter’s Square.
The tornadoes that hit the United States were “one of the worst” in the country’s history, President Biden said on Friday about the “unthinkable tragedy”.
He added that the meteorological phenomena are “more intense” due to global warming, without mentioning the cause-and-effect relationship between climate deregulation and the catastrophe that plunged his country into mourning.
With information: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ, Reuters, AFP