At least two people have died at an Amazon warehouse building collapse in Illinois, Edwardsville police chief Michael Fillback confirmed to reporters Saturday morning. A tornado Friday caused major structural damage to the building.
Fillback added one person who worked at the warehouse is hospitalized but said he did not know the person’s medical status. A bus carried about 30 employees to be reunited with their families, he added, while others left the scene on their own.
“We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, Illinois. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the storm,” Amazon said in a statement.
At least 79 people have died in the series of tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest and the southeastern US overnight, according to state and local officials. In addition to Illinois, deadly tornadoes slammed through Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The tornado struck Edwardsville at around 8:30 pm Friday evening. Authorities did not know the exact number of people in the building because the warehouse does not employ a “set staff” but Amazon management was assisting with accounting for workers, Fillback said.
At Saturday’s press conference, he said search and rescue operations were difficult because of loose power lines, unsecured concrete, and excess water from the warehouse’s fire suppression system.
Drone footage from the scene around the warehouse showed rescue workers picking through a huge area of debris in the pre-dawn darkness.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company was assessing the situation and damage at the facility.
One woman outside, Sarah Bierman, said she was very worried about her husband, who works at the warehouse.
“I talked to him about eight o’clock tonight, a little before I texted him, and he was returning to the warehouse to drop his van off,” she told a reporter.
“And I haven’t heard from him since, I just heard through the news, and we live in Edwardsville; we lost power. So I decided to come down here to see what was going on, and I had no idea the building looked that bad. And I’m just; I’m worried sick,” she said.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker tweeted Friday night: “My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight, and I’ve reached out to the mayor to provide any needed state resources.”