Biden declares major disaster in Kentucky after deadly tornadoes

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Devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky after a swarm of deadly tornadoes hit the state on Friday, paving the way for additional federal aid, the White House said in a statement.

As part of the declaration, federal aid will be provided to affected individuals in the counties of Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor, and Warren, the statement said.

The aid will include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear formally requested the declaration on Sunday after the twisters obliterated the small city of Mayfield and destroyed a candle factory.

Biden received the request and approved it on Sunday evening, an administration official said.

The governor said the tornadoes were the most destructive in the state’s history and that even the sturdiest structures of steel and brick were flattened. One twister tore across 227 miles (365 km) of terrain, almost all of that in Kentucky, Beshear said.

The Democratic president had previously declared the storms a federal emergency, enabling the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the aftermath as thousands face housing, food, water and power shortages.

But under an emergency declaration assistance is limited to $5 million, according to the FEMA website.

A major disaster declaration has no such limit and “provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work,” FEMA’s website says.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Lawrence Hurley, Katanga Johnson and Ann Maria Shibu; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Edmund Klamann)