Death Toll From Kentucky Tornado Rose to 77 After Infant Died Last Week

The number of people who died in the tornadoes that hit the Midwest and South earlier this month saw its total rise by one as Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday an infant died last week, bringing his state's total to 77 deaths due to the storms.

"This is one that rips at the very fabric of who we are," Beshear said during a news briefing, joined by his wife Britainy Beshear.

"Britainy and I ask everyone to join us in lifting up this family and their friends and the community in prayer," he added.

The infant died in Graves County, which houses Mayfield, a town that was one of the hardest hit by the tornadoes, with hundreds of buildings leveled and thousands of people left without power and water for weeks after the storms.

Over 100 people were forced to take temporary shelter in the nearby town of Wingo after much of Mayfield was destroyed by the tornado.

Eight people were killed in the collapse of a candle factory in the town. The company that owns the factory has become the subject of lawsuits as employees who survived the storm allege they were threatened with termination if they left work because of the oncoming storm.

Earlier this month, Beshear announced that the state would use the first portion of the $9 million it raised in an official state fundraiser to assist families of those who died in the tornadoes with paying for their funerals.

President Joe Biden visited Mayfield and other hard-hit areas of Kentucky on Dec. 16, giving his support to the victims and pledging federal support in the area's recovery efforts.

"Something good has to come out of this," Biden said during his visit. "In so many places, destruction was met with compassion."

Kentucky, Mayfield, Tornado, Recovery, Andy Beshear
People survey damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Dec. 11, 2021. The death toll from the tornadoes that ravaged Kentucky earlier this month rose to 77 after an infant died last week, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Debris removal in affected areas is "starting to ramp up," Beshear added. While around 26 percent of Graves County is still without power, outages in other counties are down to less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, some 11,600 insurance claims have been filed.

"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," Beshear said.

All together, the storms killed more than 90 people in five states. The National Weather Service recorded at least 41 tornadoes on Dec. 10 and 11, including 16 in Tennessee and eight in Kentucky.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kentucky, Mayfield, Tornado, Recovery, Andy Beshear
An aerial view of a destroyed businesses in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Dec. 15, 2021, five days after tornadoes hit the area. The death toll from the storms that hit Kentucky earlier this month rose to 77 after an infant died last week, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images