EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KTVI) – Six people have died and one other person was injured Friday night in the Amazon facility collapse caused by a tornado that touched down in Edwardsville, Illinois.
An additional 45 people made it out safely.
Both sides of the warehouse used to prepare orders for delivery collapsed inward and the roof caved, Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said at a Saturday news conference.
Authorities received reports of workers being trapped and the fire unit arrived within six minutes, according to Whiteford. Police helped pull people from the rubble.
Whiteford said crews would search the rubble for several days, but considering the significant damage, authorities didn’t expect to find further survivors. Rescue operations have now shifted to recovery operations.
Authorities have not released the names of the victims.
The damage was extensive; after the walls and roof caved, the force of the collapse exposed the structure’s steel support pillars
“These walls are made out of 11-inch thick concrete, and they’re about 40 feet tall, so a lot of weight from that came down,” Whiteford said.
The National Weather Service’s survey found the damage was consistent with an EF-3 tornado. However, the survey is ongoing and the tornado’s rating may increase.
The Amazon facility, among three in Edwardsville, is a 1.1 million square foot “delivery station” that employs about 190 workers across several shifts, according to Amazon. The facility, which opened in July 2020, prepares orders for “last-mile delivery” to customers. Edwardsville is about 25 miles northeast of St. Louis.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement. “We’re continuing to support our employees and partners in the area.”
Amazon said that when a site is made aware of a tornado warning, all employees are notified and directed to move to a shelter.
But company officials declined to answer specific questions about when employees were warned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.