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Recovery Efforts Underway for Victims of Devastating Tornadoes in Midwest

Recovery efforts are only just beginning for those in the path of Friday’s devastating tornadoes that ripped through six states.

Tornadoes wrecked parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee Friday night, leaving dozens dead, towns destroyed, and nearly 30,000 homes without power along a path measuring over 200 miles.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said Monday that 64 people in the state were confirmed dead, ranging in age from five months to 86 years old, and 105 people were unaccounted for. Breshear, who said he also lost loved ones, said it was the deadliest storm the state had ever seen.

The governor has opened up state parks for impacted families and pledged to provide $5,000 in burial expenses for each family that has lost a loved one.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened 11 shelters in Kentucky and three in Tennessee. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas headed to Kentucky on Monday morning to tour the damaged areas and meet with Beshear. FEMA has also provided 52 generators, 30,000 meals, 45,000 liters of water, cots, blankets, infant toddler kits and medical equipment and supplies as part of their efforts, the agency said.

Soles4Souls, a non-profit that helps bring new and used shoes to communities in need worldwide, told FN that it is “working with local community partners in Kentucky to figure out what they need and what we can provide.” The organization added that they are asking for coats, socks and other cold weather accessories first, since that seems to be the most pressing need.

Terri Rawson, chief marketing & development officer at Two Ten Footwear Foundation, told FN that the organization will be providing emergency funds to footwear employees to help pay for shelter, food, home repairs and other critical-need expenses that are directly related to the disaster.

The organization, which provides emergency financial assistance to employees in the footwear industry affected by hardship or crisis, has also sent out urgent email communications to footwear industry employees living within a 200 mile radius of the affected areas, with information on how to contact it for emergency financial assistance. Rawson added: “We’ve also sent out communications to HR teams at footwear companies across the country, reminding them to share information about our services to their employees who live in the areas impacted by the tornadoes, and provided materials that they can also send directly to employees, post on their intranets, or even print and distribute.”

Among the deaths caused by the tornadoes include six Amazon workers that were inside a warehouse in Illinois, ripping off its roof and causing 11-inch-thick concrete walls longer than football fields to collapse on themselves, according to reports.

According to Reuters, at least 45 Amazon employees made it out safely from the rubble of the 500,000-square-foot Edwardsville, Illinois, facility. Authorities have since shifted from rescue to recovery efforts that are expected to last days.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said he was “heartbroken” over the deaths in a much-criticized belated statement on Twitter Saturday night. “The news from Edwardsville is tragic,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’re heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones.”

“All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis,” the post continued. “We extend our fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed to CNN on Monday that it has opened an investigation into the collapse of the Amazon warehouse. OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, issue citations and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and or health regulations are found, CNN reported.

In addition to the Amazon warehouse, a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, which supplies candles to Bath & Body Works, was leveled in the disaster. Of the 110 working in the factory at the time, eight employees are dead and eight are still missing, the AP reported.

President Biden is scheduled to visit areas impacted by tornadoes in Kentucky on Wednesday.

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