President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky Saturday after storms and tornadoes ripped through the state, causing destruction and death.
Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the tornadoes, which went through western Kentucky overnight, are likely the “most severe tornado[s] outbreak in our state’s history.” Beshear requested the president issue an emergency declaration and two Kentucky senators and six representatives asked Biden for a disaster declaration as well, according to Axios.
“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Breckenridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hickman, Hopkins, Lyon, Meade, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer, and Warren,” the White House announced on Saturday.
Biden mentioned the emergency declaration during remarks on Saturday afternoon and pondered how those in the area feel amid the tragedy. He noted that he offered – and does plan – to visit Kentucky, but doesn’t want to be in the way of ongoing rescue efforts. (RELATED: Severe Flooding In Tennessee Leaves At Least 22 Dead, 40 Others Missing)
“Well, we’ll see,” Biden said when asked if he’ll ask Congress to approve other disaster relief funds. “Whatever is needed, I’m gonna ask for, if we don’t already have the wherewithal to take care of it, I’m gonna ask for it. This is United States of America. Our citizens are badly, badly hurt and they’re scared to death right now, in terms of all those folks who they can’t figure where they are. ‘Where’s my son, where’s my daughter, my husband, my wife, my mom, my dad?’ It’s devastating.”
Beshear said the death toll is “north of 70” and “may in fact end up exceeding 100 before the day is done,” according to CBS News. The emergency declaration, Biden explained, will “accelerate federal emergency assistance for Kentucky.”
“This is likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history,” Biden said, noting the storms moved across multiple states. “Earlier today, I called the governors of the states that had experienced severe impacts from the storms, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, as well as Tennessee. Also spoke with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Governor Beshear and I started off the morning together and he said, as I was watching on television while talking to him like all of you have, and his comment was ‘it looks like a war zone. But worse.'”
“The federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help,” Biden promised.