Jeff Bezos has been blasted for celebrating his latest bunch of space tourists, while making no mention of the six workers killed when an Amazon warehouse was hit by a tornado on Friday.
The Amazon founder greeted ex-NFL star Michael Strahan and five other members fo the latest crew of his private rocket after the 10-minute space flight landed in Texas. “Welcome back, guys,” he said, as he opened the capsule door after their return.
Before the flight, Bezos posted a photo of himself with the crew on Instagram, commenting: “Happy crew this morning in the training centre”.
But he did not make any mention on social media of the tragedy at the Amazon warehouse in Illinois, prompting one woman to comment: “You should worry about the tornado situation more.”
‘I pray there will be more rescues’
A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, has ripped across the middle of the US in a stormfront that killed dozens across five states.
“I pray that there will be another rescue. I pray that there will be another one or two,” Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said, as crews sifted through the wreckage of a candle factory in Mayfield, where 110 people were working overnight on Friday when the storm hit.
Forty of them were rescued. “We had to, at times, crawl over casualties to get to live victims,” said Jeremy Creason, the city’s fire chief.
In Kentucky alone, 22 were confirmed dead by Saturday afternoon, including 11 in and around Bowling Green.
But Beshear said upwards of 70 may have been killed when a twister touched down for more than 200 miles in his state and that the number of deaths could eventually exceed 100 across 10 or more counties.
The death toll of 36 across five states includes six people in Illinois, where the Amazon facility was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed; and two in Missouri.
If early reports are confirmed, the twister “will likely go down perhaps as one of the longest track violent tornadoes in United States history,” said Victor Genzini, a researcher on extreme weather at Northern Illinois University.
The longest tornado on record, in March 1925, tracked for about 220 miles through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. But Genzini said this twister may have touched down for nearly 250 miles.
Kentucky state trooper Sarah Burgess said rescue crews were using heavy equipment to move rubble at the candle factory.
Coroners were called to the scene and bodies were recovered, but she did not know how many. She said it could take a day and potentially longer to remove all of the rubble.
President Joe Biden approved an emergency disaster declaration for Kentucky on Saturday and pledged to support the affected states.
Biden said: “I promise you, whatever is needed — whatever is needed — the federal government is going to find a way to provide it.”
Six people were killed in the collapse of the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, with another injured worker airlifted to a hospital, fire chief James Whiteford said.
Investigators searched the rubble throughout the day for additional victims and 45 people survived, Whiteford said.
Authorities were uncertain on Saturday evening whether anyone was still unaccounted for because workers were in the midst of a shift change when it was struck by the tornado about 8.30 pm on Friday.
Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement: “This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners.”
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been trying to organise workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama, criticised the company for keeping the Illinois site open during a weather emergency.