President Joe Biden has declared an emergency in Kentucky and ordered federal assistance to supplement the state and local response in recovery efforts after storms killed as many as 70.
Tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding rocked Kentucky and the Midwest late Friday and early Saturday where dozens remained missing.
Biden ordered the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in several Kentucky counties and said he stood “ready to do the same for the governors of other states.”
The president told reporters Saturday he will ask Congress to approve the necessary funding, calling the devastation “profound” and a “tragedy” which is “likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history.”
“We still don’t know how many lives were lost or the full extent of the damage,” he said. “I say to all the victims, you’re in our prayers, and to the first responders and emergency personnel, this is the right thing to do at the right time. We’re going to get through this.”
The president spoke with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear along with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about their storm damage and to offer assistance.
Beshear, at a late afternoon news conference, offered a dire assessment of the situation at a candle manufacturing factory in Mayfield, Ky., that was destroyed on Friday night. Officials said 70 people remained missing at the facility, but the governor indicated he was not optimistic after touring the devastation.
“One hundred ten people working in it at the time the storm hit, they rescued 40,” he said. “At least 15 feet of metal with cars on top of it, barrels of corrosive chemicals were there. It’ll be a miracle if anybody else is found alive.”
The governor, who had earlier declared a state of emergency and activated the Kentucky National Guard, called the destruction in the southwest portion of the state “the worst, most devastating, most deadly tornado event in Kentucky’s history.”