Deaths confirmed after tornado hits Amazon warehouse in Illinois

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At least six people were killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois after a direct hit from a tornado caused much of the building to collapse on Friday night, officials said.

Forty-five people have been confirmed to have exited the building, Edwardsville, Ill. Fire chief James Whiteford said at a press conference on Saturday.

Edwardsville is about 25 miles east of St. Louis, and the Amazon building is in a distribution center on the west side of town with about 20 warehouses ranging from about 100,000 to 1.4 million feet squares, said Mark Mayfield, captain of the Edwardsville Fire. Department. The tornado caused a wall the size of a football field to collapse at the warehouse, as well as the roof above, according to the Associated Press.

“About half of it is missing, let’s go,” Captain Mayfield said of the building, which is about 400,000 square feet. The other half of the building remained standing on Saturday morning, he said. A bus carried several workers to join families at nearby Pontoon Beach, said Michael Fillback, the Edwardsville police chief.

“There is a lot of concrete debris; it’s mostly a concrete and steel structure, ”Chief Fillback said on Saturday morning, adding,“ It’s windy outside so things are unstable.

Emergency responders received the initial call at 8:38 p.m. and arrived several minutes later, Captain Mayfield said, with about 100 responders on the scene shortly after the building collapsed. More than a dozen police, fire and emergency medical services across the region responded.

Alonzo Harris, an Amazon delivery driver, completed his route Friday night and entered the warehouse when an alarm started ringing on his work phone. A colleague was running around and shouting at drivers that this was not an exercise, he said. They had to get out of their vehicles and seek shelter, he remembers, shouting.

“She’s put herself in danger,” said Mr. Harris, a 44-year-old St. Louis resident who has worked at Amazon since September. “She saved my life.”

Moments after Mr. Harris entered the dugout, “there was a loud roar; the building started to shake, ”he said. “I had the impression that the ground was breaking away from the ground. I felt the wind blow and saw debris flying all over the place, and people started screaming and screaming and the lights went out.

Mr. Harris compared the sensation to the earthquakes in California, where he grew up. “When the ground shook, that’s what it felt like,” he said on Saturday afternoon, after returning to the site to pick up his car. “I’m not afraid of anything, but it was scary.”

On Saturday morning, workers appeared to be using a crane to clear the wreckage from the site. The winds continued to blow at over 20 miles per hour, causing the cars to tremble.

Heavy machinery was brought in to move the collapsed walls to make sure no one else was missing, and rescue teams were checking inside vehicles that had been crushed by the collapsed walls. .

“We are deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family have died as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, Ill.,” Said Kelly Nantel, Amazon spokesperson on Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones and all those affected by the tornado.”

Amazon opened two warehouses in Edwardsville in 2016, employing approximately 2,200 people, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2017.

When Amazon opened the facility, “that put us on the map,” said Walter Williams, economic development coordinator for Madison County, which includes Edwardsville. “When more and more people saw Amazon here, they started to say, ‘We have to look over there. “”

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