Mayfield, Kentucky tornado: Gov. fears at least 70 dead after storm hits candle factory

Tornadoes and severe weather ripped through multiple states late Friday, leaving behind catastrophic destruction and killing at least six people. The death toll was expected to rise Saturday, with the governor in Kentucky fearing dozens could be dead after the storm struck a candle factory. 

Six people were killed in the collapse of the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, with another injured worker airlifted to a hospital, fire Chief James Whiteford said.

So far, officials had confirmed 29 deaths, including 22 in three Kentucky counties. 

Thunderstorms started erupting Friday after sunset and triggered numerous tornado warnings across at least seven states, FOX Weather reported. Meteorologists from National Weather Services offices will survey damage paths on Saturday, but initial reports from the Storm Prediction Center indicate more than two dozen tornadoes impacted states from Arkansas to Kentucky.

RELATED: Severe storms, including tornado risk, expected Friday night for mid-South, Ohio Valley

President Joe Biden addressed the country Saturday afternoon. He also tweeted Saturday that he was briefed on the situation and pledged the affected states would "have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue."

He responded to a deadly tornado in Kentucky saying he will deploy federal resources to the storm ravaged areas and will visit the scene as long as he isn’t impeding the cleanup process.

"Yes I do," the president said when asked if he plans to visit Kentucky. Biden explained that "when the president shows up he shows up with an awful lot of personnel" and implied he did not want to "get in the way" of the recovery efforts and is working with the government to make sure his visit is a "value added" proposition.

Biden also approved an emergency declaration Saturday providing federal funds to the commonwealth of Kentucky.

"Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that an emergency exists in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and ordered Federal assistance to supplement Commonwealth and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, and tornadoes beginning on December 10, 2021, and continuing," the White House announced.

FedEx is warning that customers could see delays in their holiday shipments after severe weather.

"FedEx Express experienced substantial disruptions at the Memphis hub last night due to severe thunderstorms," the company said on its website. "Potential delays are possible for package deliveries across the U.S. with a delivery commitment of December 11, 2021."

RELATED: How to help tornado victims in Kentucky, other states

Here is a look at where the severe weather hit across the country:

Mayfield, Kentucky candle factory tornado

In Kentucky, several buildings collapsed during the severe weather that struck Mayfield, said Sarah Burgess, a trooper with the Kentucky State Police.

She said several people were trapped inside a damaged candle factory and that a shift was ongoing when the storm hit.

"The entire building is essentially leveled," she said.

Many people were feared dead at the factory, where Gov. Andy Beshear said about 110 people were in the building at the time the tornado hit. He said Saturday morning at a news briefing that officials are "now certain" the death toll will be north of 70 and may even exceed 100. 

"The damage is even worse now that we have first light," Beshear said, calling the storm "the most devastating tornado event" in the state’s history.

RELATED: Mayfield, Kentucky tornado on ground for more than 200 miles, governor says

Burgess said search and rescue teams are still going through the rubble but don’t yet have a number for how many have died.

"We just can’t confirm a number right now because we are still out there working, and we have so many agencies involved in helping us," Burgess said. She said rescue crews were using heavy equipment to move rubble. Coroners were called to the scene and bodies were recovered, but she didn’t know how many. She said it could take a day and potentially longer to remove all of the rubble.

Photos from Mayfield and across the state showed the destruction.

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Workers toil through the destruction at Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado with workers inside, in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. (Photo by John Amis / AFP)

Farther east in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University said on Twitter that emergency crews were assessing significant storm damage and that no injuries were immediately reported. However, the school called off commencement ceremonies that were planned for Saturday because the campus was without power.

"It’s obvious we had major wind damage," said Ronnie Ward, a Bowling Green police spokesman, in a telephone interview.

Rescue efforts in Bowling Green and elsewhere were hampered by debris strewn across roads. Ward said numerous apartment complexes in Bowling Green had major structural damage, and some factories had collapsed during the storms.

"Right now we’re focusing on the citizens, trying to get to everybody that needs us," Ward said.

Amazon warehouse collapse in Edwardsville, Illinois

Six people were killed in the collapse of the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, with another injured worker airlifted to a hospital, fire Chief James Whiteford said.

The roof of the building was ripped off and a wall about the length of a football field collapsed.

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Workers remove debris from an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Edwardsville, Illinois, on December 11, 2021, after it was hit by a tornado.  (Tim Vizer / AFP)

Two people at the facility were taken by helicopter to hospitals in St. Louis for treatment, Fillback said. The chief did not know of their conditions. 

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the damage was caused by straight-line storms or a tornado, but the National Weather Service office near St. Louis reported "radar-confirmed tornadoes" in the Edwardsville area at around the time of the collapse. Edwardsville is about 25 miles east of St. Louis.

Investigators searched the rubble throughout the day for additional victims and 45 people survived, Whiteford said. Authorities were uncertain Saturday evening whether anyone was still unaccounted because workers were in the midst of a shift change when it was struck by the tornado about 8:30 p.m. Friday.

"This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners," Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been trying to organize workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama, criticized the company for keeping the Illinois site open during a weather emergency.

RELATED: Deaths confirmed in collapsed Amazon warehouse in Illinois after severe weather

About 30 people who were in the building were taken by bus to a nearby police station for evaluation.

Early Saturday, rescue crews were still sorting through the rubble. Fillback said the process could take several more hours. Cranes and backhoes were brought in to help move debris.

"The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now," Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement Friday night. "We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available."

Nursing home tornado in Arkansas

A tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home in Arkansas on Friday night, killing one person and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press.

Five people had serious injuries, and a few others had minor ones, he said. The nursing home has 86 beds.

Day said another nursing home about 20 miles away in Truman was badly damaged but no injuries were reported. The residents were being evacuated because the building is unsafe.

St. Louis, Missouri tornado

Emergency management believes a tornado was responsible for destroying homes and businesses outside of St. Louis, FOX Weather reported.

Workers at a National Weather Service office had to take shelter as a tornado passed near their office in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles west of St. Louis. One person died and two others were injured in building collapses near the towns of Defiance and New Melle, both just a few miles from the weather service office.

Tennessee storm deaths

Three storm-related deaths were confirmed in Tennessee, said Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. 

Two of the deaths occurred in Lake County, and the third was in Obion County — both in the northwestern corner of the state.

This developing story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press and FOX News contributed.