Deadly tornadoes slam through six states

By Fernando Alfonso III, Adrienne Vogt, Nadeem Muaddi, Nectar Gan and Steve George, CNN

Updated 1:39 a.m. ET, December 12, 2021
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8:43 a.m. ET, December 11, 2021

Rescuers search for missing workers at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that partially collapsed

From CNN's Andy Rose

An Amazon distribution center is heavily damaged after severe weather moved through the area on December 10, in Edwardsville, Illinois.
An Amazon distribution center is heavily damaged after severe weather moved through the area on December 10, in Edwardsville, Illinois. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Officials in Edwardsville, Illinois, say rescuers are facing a huge challenge in finding missing workers at an Amazon warehouse that partially collapsed in severe weather.

“It’s an utter disaster,” police chief Mike Fillback said in a press conference Saturday morning.

Fillback confirmed that at least two people were dead, and rescue efforts are going slowly for the safety of first responders. “You have concrete, and you have things hanging,” said Fillback. “It's quite windy outside, so things are unstable."

Fillback said dozens of people were able to leave the scene without serious injury, although it is impossible to give an exact number since some were able to walk away without assistance.

Officials won’t speculate on how long rescue operations will continue, but the cleanup work will not be over soon. “This will be ongoing for the next several days,” said Edwardsville Mayor Art Risavy.

Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha called the situation a "devastating tragedy."

“Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted. This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners," Rocha said in a statement.

8:00 a.m. ET, December 11, 2021

Kentucky official: This is “one of the darkest days in the state’s history”

From CNN's Claudia Dominguez

Kentucky Director of Emergency Management Michael Dossett described the damage caused by tornadoes in his state as “one of the darkest days in the state’s history.”

“This will be one of the most significant, the most extensive disasters that Kentucky has faced,” Dossett told CNN’s Boris Sanchez on Saturday.

Dossett said that “all assets” are heading to Western Kentucky, one of the hardest hit areas, including the National Guard and incident management teams. He also said that Gov. Andy Beshear had already signed a letter requesting immediate assistance from FEMA and is hoping to get a response by later today. 

Dossett urged residents to remain indoors unless it’s an emergency.

8:30 a.m. ET, December 11, 2021

At least 50 people likely dead in Kentucky, governor says

From CNN's Andy Rose

Severe damage is seen to downtown buildings in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 10.
Severe damage is seen to downtown buildings in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 10. (WPSD)

At least 50 people are likely dead after multiple tornadoes barreled through southwestern Kentucky late Friday, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. 

"We believe our death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentuckians, probably end up closer to 70 to 100 lost lives," Beshear said at a briefing Saturday morning, calling the storms that hit the state "the most severe tornado event in Kentucky's history."

Preliminary investigations indicate four tornadoes may have hit the state, including one that potentially stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles, Beshear said. Damage has been reported in at least 15 counties stretching across western Kentucky. 

The worst destruction was in Graves County, he told CNN affiliate WLKY, particularly the town of Mayfield. "It hit Mayfield as hard as just about any town ... has ever been hit."

The most severe damage appeared to be at a candle factory that was destroyed in the town of about 10,000 residents in southwestern Kentucky.

“There were about 110 people in it at the time that the tornado hit it. We believe we'll lose at least dozens of those individuals,” Beshear said.