An infant has been confirmed as the latest fatality in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes that struck Kentucky earlier this month, bringing the state’s official death toll to 77, Gov. Andy Beshear said on Monday.
Beshear told reporters that the infant, from hard-hit Graves County in the western part of the state, died last week. Dozens of children were killed in the storms that raked a five-state region, including one twister that plowed a 227-mile path of destruction through western Kentucky.
“This is one that rips at the very fabric of who we are,” Beshear said during a news briefing, joined by Kentucky first lady Britainy Beshear. “Britainy and I ask everyone to join us in lifting up this family and their friends and the community in prayer.”
Mayfield, in Graves County, bore some of the greatest damage and loss of life from the storms, with much of the city laid to waste. Eight people were killed at a candle factory in the city of about 10,000 in the state’s west when the tornados struck.
Beshear at the time described the devastation as “unlike anything I have seen in my life.”
Sixteen counties in western Kentucky have been included in a federal disaster declaration, making residents there eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Beshear on Monday said that debris removal in affected areas is “starting to ramp up.”
“Rebuilding these homes and structures and lives is going to take years and we’ve got to make sure when support is needed down the road that we have it … and we can deploy it there to help these families,” the governor said.
Kentucky State Parks were continuing to provide housing and food services for more than 600 residents displaced by the disaster, state officials said.
Insured property losses from the storms could total up to $5 billion, according to industry experts.
The weekend tornadoes and storms killed approximately 90 people across five states. There were least 41 tornadoes in total, including 16 in Tennessee and eight in Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service.
President Joe Biden on Dec. 15 said that his administration would cover all emergency work costs in the state for 30 days, adding, “I intend to do whatever it takes as long as it takes.”
“You will recover and you will rebuild. The scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief,” the president told reporters at Dawson Springs after he visited several areas among the worst hit.
Biden also praised community efforts to rebuild and recover in the aftermath of the devastating storms.
“That’s what you’re supposed to be doing,” the president said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be. There’s no red tornadoes or blue tornadoes. There’s no red states or blue states when this stuff starts to happen.”
An organization made up of military veterans from Arkansas earlier this month traveled across state lines to assist in clean up efforts, including clearing paths, cutting down trees, and assisting with search and rescue.
“I remember a tornado in Beebe, I think it was 1999 and there was all of sudden people showing up from all over the United States helping us,” Clint Roe, a member of the Sheep Dog Impact Assistance Central Arkansas told FOX16.
Roe told the news outlet that he believes Kentucky will recover if communities come together to help each other and restore hope.
“To put that back into people is just magical,” Roe said.
Reuters contributed to this report.