As rescue personnel continued to search for survivors of the devastating tornadoes that tore through six states on Friday, the storms' victims are beginning to be identified.
Casualties from the tornado-spawning storms have been confirmed in Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Of all these states, Kentucky was hit the hardest. In a press conference Sunday, Gov. Andy Beshear described the destruction as the "most devastating tornado event in our history," and that he believed that it will go on record as the longest path of any tornado in the US ever. The National Weather Service is still assessing the damage.
Beshear said Saturday as many as 100 people are feared to be dead, and by Sunday, 50 deaths in his state had been confirmed. But as National Guard troops and law enforcement are continuing to search the rubble of one house to the next, he said: "I think it’s going to be significantly worse than that. We’re still finding bodies."
Most of the victims' names have not yet been released. One of the Kentucky victims has been identified as a district judge; another as a corrections officer.
In the city of Mayfield, Kentucky, which was among the hardest hit, the tornado leveled a candle factory that early reports suggested had 110 people inside during its night shift.
Beshear said Sunday that 40 people had been rescued from the rubble so far, and authorities were working to confirm if others had been accounted for. However, on Sunday night, the candle factory's parent company, Mayfield Consumer Products, released a statement saying that 90 people had been located, with eight employees confirmed dead and eight others still missing.
“I am praying that maybe original estimates of those we’ve lost were wrong," Beshear said when asked about the company's assessment. "If so, it’s going to be pretty wonderful, but it’s pretty early.”
In Illinois, six people have been confirmed dead after a tornado hit an Amazon warehouse — an increase from the estimated two people in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn on Sunday identified the six people who were killed to the Associated Press as 26-year-old Austin J. McEwen, 29-year-old Clayton Lynn Cope, 46-year-old Larry E. Virden, 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey, 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow, and 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb.
Arkansas's two victims have been identified as a 94-year-old man who was killed when a tornado hit a nursing home, and a Dollar General assistant manager who died shielding another employee. The Washington Post identified the assistant manager as June Pennington.
Tennessee's death toll rose overnight to four. Missouri reported an initial death toll of two — a woman and a child.