Desperate search and rescue efforts continued Sunday morning as the extent of the damage from a catastrophic series of tornadoes that swept through Kentucky and other states became clear.
At least 29 people died after devastating tornadoes destroyed a candle factory in Kentucky, damaged a nursing home in Arkansas, razed an Amazon distribution center in Illinois and wreaked havoc in Tennessee and Missouri, according to a count by NBC News. That number is expected to rise as cleanup efforts continue.
In Kentucky alone, 15 people were confirmed dead late Saturday, including a 3-year-old boy in Graves County.
Gov. Andy Beshear said the tornado that swept through the Bluegrass state was the deadliest to ever hit Kentucky and an estimated 70 to 100 people may have died.
“There is no camera lens big enough to show the path of absolute destruction. People have lost everything, “Beshear told Chuck Todd on NBC News'” Meet the Press “on Sunday.
“We are talking about the rescue effort of going door to door, there are no doors,” he said.
His voice cracking slightly, he added: “We are resilient and we will rebuild.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas travel to Kentucky to offer assistance to state authorities. They are expected to join Bashear for a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
Kentucky State Police found 12 dead in the city of Bremen, police officer Matt Sudduth confirmed Sunday morning. Search and rescue teams are still working to break through the rubble, and teams from other parts of the state will arrive Sunday to offer relief to those who have not yet had a break.
“The Kentucky State Police are working with many other agencies in their efforts to preserve as much life as possible,” Sudduth said. “The low temperatures last night are worrisome, but efforts are continuing. The damage is so extensive it only takes time.”
In Mayfield, a city of around 10,000 and one of the hardest hit communities, residents shared devastating images showing decimated homes and trees ripped from the ground. Twisted metal, downed power lines and wrecked vehicles lined the streets.
“The city is gone,” Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan told NBC’s “Nightly News” after authorities said the city’s police and fire stations were also destroyed.
“We knew it was wrong, but not until the sun started to come up, we looked at it and we saw matches,” he said. “Our hearts are broken,” he added.
Crews continued to search for survivors in the remains of the city’s candle factory, where 110 people were working late Friday when the storm hit.
By Sunday morning, 8 people had died and another 36 were still missing, sources with knowledge of NBC News told NBC News.
“Sometimes we had to crawl over victims to get to live victims,” Jeremy Creason, the city’s fire chief and EMS director, told the Associated Press.
Daryl Johnson said his sister Janine Johnson was working inside the factory when the tornado hit. He had been trying to communicate with her ever since.
“I am prepared for the worst,” he said. “I hope for the best, but I am preparing for the worst.”
Kyanna Parsons-Perez, who turned 40 on Saturday, said she was trapped under the rubble for at least 2 hours before rescue teams pulled her out.
“I think the lights went out, and then we did a rock, rock, rock … boom, and it all fell on us,” he said.
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His colleague Jessaundra Jackson was not at the factory when the tornado hit, but returned early the next day to help crews get people out.
“You could hear people yelling for help, but you can’t see them,” said Jackson, 33. “You couldn’t see them … you can only hear them.”
In Illinois, at least six people died after a 30-meter portion of a wall partially collapsed at an Amazon facility in the city of Edwardsville, authorities said.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos called the news “tragic” on a tweet Saturday. “We are heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there,” he added.
Elsewhere, four people died in Tennessee and two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed. Two other people lost their lives in Missouri.
Kathy park, Mohammed syed, Associated Press Y Kate snow contributed.