Kentucky tornadoes: Race to find missing in flattened US towns

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Watch how Kentucky residents are rebuilding their lives from "hell on Earth"

Kentucky's governor reflected on the "unspeakable trauma" in his state, as he confirmed that weekend tornadoes have killed at least 74 residents.

The victims ranged in age from as young as five months to 86 years old and come from at least eight different counties, with 18 people still unidentified.

Governor Andy Beshear said on Monday at least 109 people remain missing and more deaths may be confirmed soon.

Search and rescue efforts have been continuing across Western Kentucky.

Emergency workers, including over 400 members of the National Guard, have been scouring debris for survivors and distributing water and generators to residents.

Mr Beshear said cadaver dogs were also being used to help search through rubble, adding that "we're still finding bodies" in some locations.

"I'm not doing so well today and I'm not sure how many of us are," the governor said, visibly emotional during a press conference Monday. "The people of Western Kentucky have gone through an unspeakable trauma."

"The devastation is unlike anything I have seen in my life," he said.

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Watch: Kentucky governor tears up over tornado victims

A resident in the town of Mayfield, one of the areas worst-hit, said he had "dropped down to my knees and covered my head" when the tornado hit.

"My ears popped, and debris started coming through the doorway," Rick Foley, 70, told Reuters, adding: "It was gone in 30 seconds."

Another Mayfield resident, David Norseworthy, said the storm ripped the roof of his property clean off and destroyed his porch as his family hid in a shelter.

"We never had anything like that here," the 69-year-old told AFP news agency.

Elsewhere in the town, eight deaths were confirmed at a candle factory, where 110 employees were feared to have been trapped inside at the time. Eight other workers were reported missing.

Kyanna Parsons Perez, a factory worker who made a desperate plea for help on Facebook from under the wreckage, told the BBC that other businesses had shut down for the storm and staff there should not have been at work.

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Mr Beshear said a tornado had wrecked places all along its 227-mile (365km) path. Thousands of people had their homes destroyed and more than 26,000 homes are still without power.

The governor has opened up state parks for impacted families and pledged to provide $5,000 (£3,780) in burial expenses for each family that has lost a loved one. He said a relief fund to cover victims' funeral expenses has already raised over $6m from more than 40,000 people.

He has also ordered all state flags to be lowered for one week in honour of victims.

Ghost town

By Nomia Iqbal, BBC News, Cambridge Shores, Kentucky

Jerry Neal is going through the wreckage of what was once his home in southern Kentucky.

He picks up some Christmas decorations - two Father Christmas tree baubles and blue beads. "The heart's gone out of Christmas," he says.

Things have not been the same since his mother moved into a nursing home last year, he says. It was just him and his elderly father in the house.

"My mom designed this decades ago, she went back and forth with designers, she kept changing things, making them go crazy," he laughs. "Mom got the house she wanted. It was beautiful and now it's trash."

Meanwhile, at least 13 deaths have been reported in four other US states.

In Illinois, six people were killed in a collapsed Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville and more were still missing.

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Four deaths were confirmed in Tennessee, while two people were killed in Arkansas, one of them in a nursing home after it partly collapsed. One death was confirmed in Missouri.

A tornado was also reported in Mississippi.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden described the tragic event as "one of the largest" storm outbreaks in American history.

Mr Biden declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky and ordered federal aid to be made available to the hardest-hit areas.

The president said he would visit the state on Wednesday to survey storm damage and oversee the federal response.

Kentucky officials have credited the administration for the speed of its response, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Mr Biden, a Democrat, for cutting "through the red tape".

Mr Biden has said he will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to examine what role climate change might have played in the storms.

Previously, the longest a tornado had travelled along the ground in the US was a 219-mile storm in Missouri in March 1925 that claimed 695 lives.

Such major events outside of the spring and summer months are extremely rare.

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How bad were the US tornadoes and what caused them?