News December 13, 2021 at 07:30 am

U.S. tornadoes: Scores killed as survivor recounts being buried with co-workers in debris for hours

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor December 13, 2021 at 07:30 am

December 13, 2021 at 07:30 am | News

Kyanna Parsons-Perez survived what has been described as the deadliest tornado system to ever run through Kentucky. Photos: TODAY/AP

Scores of people have been killed as tornadoes and storms hit several states in the U.S., causing buildings to collapse and trapping people inside. In Mayfield, Kentucky, one of the cities hardest hit by the storm, a candle factory collapsed with about 110 employees inside.

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, who was among workers rescued from the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, has been sharing what it was like to be trapped inside the building when the roof gave away on Friday.

“It was extremely scary,” Parsons-Perez told Weekend TODAY. “Everything happened so fast. They had us in the area where you go in case there’s a storm, and we were all there. Then, the lights got to flickering, and then all of a sudden, we felt a gust of — we could feel the wind. Then, my ears kind of started popping, you know, as they would as if you’re on a plane.”

“And then you did like a little rock, like, this way and this way,” she said, indicating how hard it was for them to stand still. “And then, boom, everything came down on us. All you heard was screams.”

Parsons-Perez said there were a lot of Hispanic people who worked at the factory, hence she heard people “praying in Spanish and just hollering.” She called 911 and started livestreaming on Facebook to seek help while she and her fellow workers waited for someone to come and rescue them.

“Calm down, calm down. We gonna be okay,” Parsons-Perez can be heard saying in the video she shared on Facebook after the roof of the Mayfield candle factory fell.

“My birthday is in couple (of) hours.

“Y’all gotta sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me,” Parsons-Perez is heard telling her colleagues.

“But it was absolutely the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” she told Weekend TODAY on Saturday — her birthday — after being rescued. The 40-year-old said she and her fellow workers were trapped for two hours as they waited for someone to help them. Parsons-Perez said at a point she thought she wouldn’t make it out alive, especially after something fell on top of her.

“I did not think I was gonna make it at all. I was so scared,” she said. “I fell in a very awkward position. My back was against the wall and I was right by the … the water fountains.”

She said she had been in that “weird position” for so long that she couldn’t feel her legs. Then came a man from the search and rescue team. Parsons-Perez said she begged the man to move her but he told her that she was trapped underneath five feet of rubble so she would have to wait for a while.

At the end of the day, she was able to get out alive thanks to the help of the rescue team that included inmates from the Graves County jail. Parsons-Perez said she was one of the last people to leave the factory due to the dangerous position she was in.

“…We were able to get the debris under us to move around and we were able to get out,” she said.

On Sunday, about 90 of the workers presumed dead were located alive and well. The company later said that Sunday that eight workers had died while eight remained missing. Earlier on Saturday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said about 50 had died in his state alone, adding it was “the deadliest tornado system to ever run through Kentucky”.

Other states were devastated by tornadoes. In Edwardsville, Illinois, six workers died when both sides of an Amazon warehouse collapsed inward and the roof caved in. Two people died in Missouri. Four were also killed in Tennessee and two in Arkansas.

Addressing Americans at a White House news conference on Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden described the tornadoe outbreaks as one of the largest in U.S. history. “I promise you, whatever is needed, the federal government is going to supply it.”

“This is the United States of America, our citizens are badly, badly hurt and they’re scared to death right now, it’s devastating,” Biden said.

“We just have to keep at it, we have to keep focused, this is going to be the focus of my attention until we get it finished.”

As of the time of putting together this story, authorities were still trying to determine the total number of deaths as they continue to search other hard-hit areas.

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