Tornadoes have swept through six US states, killing more than 70 people in Kentucky and destroying an Amazon facility in Illinois, officials said.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear described the tornadoes as the most severe in the state’s history. The main storm travelled for more than 227 miles across Kentucky, he said.
“It’s been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky’s history and some areas have been hit in ways that are hard to put into words,” Beshear told a news conference on Saturday. He added that the death toll in the state could approach 100.
The city of Mayfield had been “devastated”, he said. A roof collapse at a candle factory had resulted in mass casualties. Tens of thousands were without power and Beshear declared a state of emergency, activating the national guard.
President Joe Biden tweeted that the loss of life was “an unimaginable tragedy”.
“We’re working with Governors to ensure they have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue.”
The cause of the tornadoes appeared to be a series of overnight thunderstorms, including a large one that formed in north-east Arkansas and moved on to Missouri and into Tennessee and Kentucky.
A tornado hit the Amazon facility in the town of Edwardsville on Friday night. Officials said on Saturday there were at least two confirmed fatalities.
At least 100 emergency vehicles headed to the site after a wall the length of an American football field collapsed, according to local media reports.
According to data from logistics analysts MWPVL, the Edwardsville facility, about 20 miles from St Louis, is a 700,000 sq ft large “non-sortable” fulfilment centre.
Such buildings typically employ about 1,000 workers, according to Amazon’s website, though during the peak Christmas season it can be significantly more.
“The safety and wellbeing of our employees and partners is our top priority right now,” Amazon said. “We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available.”
Dave Clark, the Amazon executive in charge of its fulfilment network, said on Twitter: “Thoughts and prayers going out to our team in Edwardsville tonight and thank you to all the first responders.”
Edwardsville police chief Mike Fillback said it was unknown how many people were inside the building at the time of the collapse.
“This is a fairly new building so it’s not something that we’re used to seeing,” he added, speaking to CBS affiliate KMOV.
Two people from the site were taken to hospital by helicopter and about 30 workers taken by bus to a nearby police station for evaluation, according to Associated Press.
“My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight, and I’ve reached out to the mayor to provide any needed state resources,” said Illinois governor, JB Pritzker, in a tweet.