HOUSTON — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized the deployment of a special task force to help with recovery efforts in Western Kentucky where deadly storms and tornados have left hundreds of miles of devastation.
A state of emergency was declared in the state Saturday morning, and according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, more than 70 people are feared to be dead as recovery and rescue efforts continue.
The Texas task force is being deployed at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the governor's office said.
Abbott has approved the activation of 10 Texas A&M Task Force 1 personnel to deploy the Central Incident Support Team cache, which is part of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue System.
Abbott said they will provide specialized technical gear and command, control, and communication equipment.
"The State of Texas stands ready to assist our friends in Kentucky as they continue their response and recovery efforts in the wake of deadly tornadoes that shook the western portion of their state overnight," Abbott said in a statement.
"Thank you to the members of Texas A&M Task Force 1 who are making their way to Western Kentucky to help those in need. I ask all Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for those affected by these horrific tornadoes."
After a historic quad-state weather system rolled through much of Western Kentucky Friday night, multiple tornadoes left widespread damage and many lives were lost.
The hardest-hit place was in Graves County, where Beshear said that the city of Mayfield had been "devastated."
"The level of devastation is unlike anything I've ever seen," Beshear said in a noon press conference. "This will be, I believe, the deadliest tornado system to have ever run through Kentucky."
Earlier this morning, Beshear predicted there would be around 50 deaths, however, he is now "certain" that more than 70 Kentuckians will have lost their life due to the storm.
"It may end up exceeding 100 before the day is done," he said.
Kentucky State Trooper Sarah Burgess said that there is significant damage reported, including a collapsed roof at a candle factory that had an estimated 110 people inside when the storm hit around 9:30 p.m. central time.
Beshear said the roof collapse caused "mass casualties."
"We're gonna lose a lot of lives in that facility," Beshear said after coming back from seeing the factory in person. "It's a very dire situation at this point."