Six killed after tornado destroys Amazon warehouse in Illinois, US
At least six people were killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois after a direct hit from a tornado caused a major portion of the building to collapse on Friday night, 10 December 2021, officials said. "We identified 45 personnel who made it out of the building safely, one who had to be airlifted to a regional hospital for treatment and six fatalities," Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said. The authorities said they did not know how many people were inside the warehouse when the storm hit, so they did not know how many more people they were looking for. When the tornado swept through around 20h35, it caused the walls of the building to fall inward and the roof to collapse, Chief Whiteford said, adding that the walls were about 40 feet tall and made of 11-inch-thick concrete.
Edwardsville sits about 25 miles east of St Louis and the Amazon building is in a distribution hub on the west side of town.
The National Weather Service said the tornado hit the area between 20h28 and 20h32 central time, intensifying rapidly as it struck the Amazon warehouse. With estimated peak winds of 150 miles per hour (241 km-per-hour) winds, the force was so severe that the roof was ripped off and 11-inch (28-cm) thick concrete walls longer than football fields fell in on themselves.
At least 45 Amazon employees made it out safely. Authorities had given up hope of finding more survivors as they shifted from rescue to recovery efforts that were expected to last days.
The company has three facilities in Edwardsville: the delivery station hit by the storm as well as a fulfilment centre and a sorting station. The delivery station opened in July 2020 to prepare orders for last-mile delivery to customers.
Amazon said it was donating $1 million to the Edwardsville Community Foundation. The company said it is providing relief supplies as well as transport, food and water.
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said he was "heartbroken" at the deaths, tweeting: "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones."
Sources: The New York Times, Reuters