By Sarah Ahmed and Lukas Alder
Last Friday and early Saturday, multiple tornadoes tore through Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Illinois, killing at least 80 people. One tornado stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles through Kentucky, where a majority of the people were killed.
The tornadoes emerged from a supercell storm that formed in Northeast Arkansas. Passing through multiple states, this storm produced four tornadoes, one of which would become the killer that tore through the town of Mayfield, Kentucky. That tornado reached peak winds of 190 mph and had a maximum path width of one mile.
In Mayfield, the entire downtown area was destroyed and many neighborhoods are completely flattened. Mayfield’s casualty count includes workers who died at a candle factory that was hit hard by the storm.
With the storm approaching, five workers at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory, which produces candles and home fragrance products, told monopoly media NBC News that management threatened to fire them if they left their shifts early. Workers began asking permission to leave after tornado sirens sounded at 5:30pm. Several hours passed before the tornado landed, during which workers could have safely left to take shelter at their homes.
One worker said that management went as far as taking a roll call to determine which workers had left. Over 100 workers were in the building when the roof collapsed from the vehement winds. Videos and photographs from the event show horrid twisted metal structures and piles of debris, leaving many trapped.
Eight workers have been confirmed dead, and another seventeen have been hospitalized. One worker suffered chemical burns caused by candle wax, and also experienced swelling and kidney damage after being trapped for six hours. Around forty workers were rescued from the building, and another eight workers are still missing.
Mayfield residents told Tribune that the city has not offered them any help with making repairs, and instead the city has prioritized rebuilding the courthouse. One family, who had a tree fall on their house, said they received a tornado warning only a few minutes before the storm landed, even though the national Storm Prediction Center began issuing tornado warnings several days before.
Kentucky Emergency Management director Michael Dossett said at a press conference that it would take months to rebuild Mayfield’s electric systems. More than 18,000 Kentuckians still do not have power, in addition to the city of Mayfield, which is also still totally without power. A “boil water” advisory is still in effect in Mayfield.
In Monette, Arkansas, one tornado ripped into the Monette Manor nursing home, killing a 95-year-old resident and injuring five others. Nearby in Leachville, Arkansas, the tornado directly hit a grocery store, killing one person, and wreaking havoc on the town’s downtown.
In Tennessee, a total of 15 tornadoes landed in the area, causing power outages, destroying homes and downing thousands of trees. At least four people in Lake County and Obion County died, with one person still missing in the area.
Six workers died at an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois when walls fell in and the roof collapsed, trapping dozens more. Prior to his death, worker Larry Virden texted his long-time girlfriend, “Amazon won’t let us leave.”
The storms were devastating, however the deaths are mainly casualties of a failed capitalist system, unwilling and unable to make the proper preparations and investments for extreme weather to protect the people. The deaths of workers in Illinois and Kentucky, forced to remain at their poorly-constructed workplaces during shifts as storms bore down, further negate the idea that these deaths are mainly due to a so-called ‘natural disaster.’
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