Kentucky: Death toll could exceed 100 after 'absolutely terrifying' storms and tornadoes

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on the devastation across a state battered by tornadoes

The death toll in Kentucky could surpass 100 after a series of tornadoes hit the state in in what's been described as one of its "toughest nights in history".

Governor Andy Beshear described the extreme weather as "among the likes of which we have never seen", with at least 70 thought to be dead.

"It’s very hard, really tough, and we’re praying for each and every one of those families," he said.

"This will be, I believe, the deadliest tornado system to ever run through Kentucky."

The storm tore through a candle factory in Kentucky, an Amazon facility in Illinois and a nursing home in Arkansas. 

Kyana Parsons-Perez, an employee at the candle factory, was trapped under 1.5 metres of debris for at least two hours until rescuers managed to free her.

In an interview with TODAY, she said it was the “absolutely the most terrifying” event she had ever experienced. “I did not think I was going to make it at all.”

Towns across Kentucky have been devastated by 'the deadliest' tornadoes seen in the state

At least one person died at the Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois when the roof of the building was ripped off and a wall about the length of a football field collapsed.

“This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners," Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement. Television news footage from the scene showed buses taking people away from the building, and at least one person was seen being carried to a medical helicopter on a gurney.

Emergency vehicles outside the Amazon fulfillment centre

Governor Beshear declared a state of emergency, and also admitted he had been unable to reach some of his family members in the affected area.

"Debris covering emergency vehicle buildings has hampered search and rescue efforts," Governor Beshear wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden, in which he requested an immediate federal emergency declaration.

President Biden pledged the affected states would “have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue.”

The Amazon distribution center is partially collapsed after being hit by a tornado. Credit: AP

Almost 57,000 people in the state have been left without power.

Severe storms also swept across other parts of the South and Midwest late on Friday and into Saturday morning.

At least four people across Tennessee and Arkansas also died in severe weather.

In Tennessee, two storm-related fatalities were reported in the state’s northwestern corner, said Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

A third death was reported in neighboring Obion County. Mr Flener said the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed the deaths, however there were no other details immediately released.

A tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home in Arkansas on Friday night, killing one person and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day.

Meanwhile, at least 100 emergency vehicles descended upon the warehouse near the city of Edwardsville, Illinois. A wall that was about the length of a football field had collapsed, as did the roof above it.