Updated Dec 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden approves emergency declaration after "one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history"

Emergency workers search through what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021.
Emergency workers search through what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Dec. 11. Photo: John Amis/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Saturday issued an emergency declaration in Kentucky and ordered federal assistance to support recovery efforts after a tornado tore through the state killing at least 70 people.

Driving the news: The president also said he stands "ready to do the same for the governors of the other states," during a press conference from Delaware on Saturday afternoon.

  • More than two dozen tornadoes reportedly touched down across Kentucky and five other states: Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
  • The emergency declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, according to the White House.

Details: Biden has been in touch throughout the day with governors of the states impacted by severe weather, and "asked each governor what his state needs," according to the White House.

  • He also told governors "to call him directly if there is any federal support they need."
  • In a call with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Biden said he directed FEMA and other federal agencies to "provide the speediest assistance possible to impact communities," per a readout of the call.

The president said he would visit Kentucky once his presence won't "get in the way of rescue and recovery" efforts.

  • "I'm working with the governor of Kentucky and others who may want me to be there, to make sure we're value added at the time, we're not going to get in the way of rescue and recovery. I do plan on going."
  • The president also referenced the scale and scope of the unprecedented tornadoes, saying: "This is likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history."
"It's a tragedy. It's a tragedy. And we still don't know how many lives are lost or the full extent of the damage. I want to emphasize what I told all the governors, the federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help."

Go deeper: In photos: Deadly tornadoes leave damage across Kentucky, multiple states

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout with new information following the president's televised remarks.

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