Biden approves disaster declaration in Kentucky

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The President’s declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor, and Warren, reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden has declared that a major disaster exists in the state Kentucky and ordered federal aid for recovery efforts in the areas affected by powerful tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding, according to a White House statement.

The President’s declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor, and Warren, the statement added.

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”

It comes after Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who visited the hardest-hit town of Mayfield earlier earlier on Sunday, said that the death toll from the powerful tornadoes is likely to pass 100, the BBC reported.

Calling this as the most devastating tornado event in the state’s history, Beshear confirmed at least 80 deaths. “Nothing that was standing in the direct line of (one) tornado is still standing,” he was quoted as saying.

“We’re still hoping as we move forward for some miracles to find more people.”

Besides Kentucky, tornadoes on December 10 also lashed Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

‘Powerful storms new normal’

Powerful storms like the ones that tore through parts of the central US this weekend are the “new normal” in an era of climate change, and the severity, duration and magnitude of the storms this late in the year were “unprecedented,” Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told CNN.

“This is going to be our new normal,” said Criswell.

“The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation … We’re taking a lot of efforts at FEMA to work with communities to help reduce the impacts that we’re seeing from these severe weather events and help to develop systemwide projects that can help protect communities.”

Meanwhile, CNN said in its report that “scientific research on the role that climate change is playing in the formation and intensity of tornadoes is not as robust as for other types of extreme weather like droughts, floods and even hurricanes. The short and small scale of tornadoes, along with an extremely spotty and unreliable historical record for them, makes assessing their relationships to long-term, human-caused climate change very difficult.”

Though establishing connections between climate change and tornadoes is difficult, the correlation between El Nino or La Nina and tornadoes is strong — La Nina seasons tend to have increased tornado activity in the US, and it is worth noting that this country is currently experiencing La Nina, which is expected to last into spring of 2022, it added.

“The vicious centerpiece (of the weekend tornadoes) was a monster supercell that carved an hours-long, 250-mile path from eastern Arkansas to western Kentucky … A powerful storm system set up the chaos as it swept from the Rockies toward Canada, triggering high winds over large areas of the Mid-South, Midwest and Great Lakes,” reported The Washington Post (WP).

On Sunday, rescuers in the middle of the US resumed search operations for victims of a deadly tornado outbreak that left dozens of people dead and flattened entire communities when it tore through six states late Friday, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

US Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas said that he is heading to Kentucky on Sunday to meet with the governor and local officials and assess the damage caused by the storms.

“I am on my way to Kentucky with @FEMA_Deanne to meet with @GovAndyBeshear, state, and local officials,” he tweeted.

President Joe Biden signed an emergency declaration for Kentucky on Saturday, opening the door for the FEMA and other federal entities to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

“Whatever is needed, the federal government is going to find a way to supply it,” Biden said on Saturday in Delaware.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear confirmed that the tornadoes that tore a 200-mile gash across his state and leveled homes and businesses left “devastation like none of us have ever seen before,” telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that “this tornado didn’t discriminate against anybody in its path, even if they were trying to be safe.”

Mayfield, Kentucky, was one of the hardest-hit communities, with satellite photos showing a swath of destruction, including at a candle factory that was completely flattened. More than 100 workers were in the factory when the tornado struck, and 40 of them had been rescued as of Saturday.

The official number of confirmed deaths from the tornadoes and severe storms stood at 25 Sunday morning, with Kentucky suffering the most deaths, but Beshear estimated the actual death toll in his state would exceed 80 and could rise to more than 100 as crews continue sifting through the wreckage.

According to WP, over 100 people are feared to have been killed after rare winter tornadoes ripped through parts of the South and the Midwest late Friday and early Saturday. Thousands of people woke up to power and water outages on Sunday, as rescue work goes on to determine the exact number of deaths.

Dalai Lama writes to Biden

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has written to President Joe Biden to express his concern about the loss of life and property that so many Americans have suffered during tornadoes impacting several states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.

“I appreciate that the United States Government as well as the state governments of the affected areas, are doing all they can to provide immediate relief and solace to the victims,” he wrote.

“I have had the opportunity to visit some of these states in the past, and I offer my condolences to you, to the families who have lost loved ones, and to everyone affected by these devastating storms.”

The tornadoes have torn through states including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Search and rescue teams in western Kentucky and nearby states were combing through rubble for survivors after a series of tornadoes ripped through the region, killing at least dozens, while the number of deaths in Kentucky alone could exceed 100, The Wall Street Journal quoted state officials as saying.

Last week more than 30 separate tornadoes moved with devastating power and speed across six US states stretching from Mississippi in the south to Illinois in the north.

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