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Kentucky tornado survivors picking up pieces, facing uncertainty ahead: NPR

Beatrice and Luis Valero, with their 8-year-old granddaughter Alaya Pacheco, stand in front of what remains of their home. The family said they lost everything in last week’s tornado and hope to rebuild, but they have no homeowners insurance.

David Schaper / NPR


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David Schaper / NPR


Beatrice and Luis Valero, with their 8-year-old granddaughter Alaya Pacheco, stand in front of what remains of their home. The family said they lost everything in last week’s tornado and hope to rebuild, but they have no homeowners insurance.

David Schaper / NPR

In Kentucky, searchers continued door-to-door, scouring debris in hopes of finding more than 100 people who remained unaccounted for after vicious tornadoes swept through the state Friday night.

Families and business owners are also starting to clean up neighborhoods, salvaging the remains of the disaster that left at least 74 people dead.

“It’s correct [we’re] On Tuesday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the rescue and recovery process is still in progress. But that doesn’t mean we don’t start the cleanup and then rebuild.

In the city of Mayfield, people “lost everything”

In Mayfield, one of the worst-affected cities, bulldozers, shovels, wheel loaders and backhoe loaders carried away what remained of destroyed homes and businesses.

The extent of the devastation is in the minds of many who see it.

Beatrice Valero, 42, said: “We lost everything.

All but the two bedrooms in the back of the house where she raised her six children are gone, along with almost everything inside.

The Valeros arrange what is left of their house. Currently, they are staying with Beatrice’s mother.

David Schaper / NPR


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David Schaper / NPR

When the tornado hit, Valero was huddled in the hallway with her husband, Luis, and their 8-year-old niece Alaya.

“Yesterday I couldn’t sleep all night,” she said. “I didn’t go back to sleep all night because I was so nervous and couldn’t sleep. I started to hurt and then I was shaking.”

Valero’s niece Alaya added some heartbreaking news.

“I think the Christmas tree has been sucked in all the presents,” the girl said. She hoped some of the wrapped gifts would be buried in the rubble, but they hadn’t found any of them yet.

Crews are still working to restore power to homes and businesses still standing in Mayfield. They also had to create a new water supply after the town’s water tower collapsed.

But questions remain about Mayfield’s long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Many of those who lost their homes and businesses may not be able to afford the cost of rebuilding. Even jobs can face lengthy delays and higher costs due to shortages of lumber and other building materials, as well as labor.

Howard Smith, 73, owns a store in downtown Mayfield that sold woodworking tools and other hobbies that was razed by the storm.

As he and his wife, daughter and a few friends dug through the rubble to see what they could salvage, he broke down in tears as he talked about the town he’d lived in for most of his life.

Howard Smith, left, combs what’s left of his workshop in Mayfield with family and friends.

David Schaper / NPR


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David Schaper / NPR

“It’s going to start new, it’s going to start new,” Smith said, “…but it’s going to take a long time. I don’t think people my age will see it go back to the way it was…but I do. I hope my grandchildren will. But it will take a long time to finish it.”

In Dawson Springs, questions about who will stay and who will go

In Dawson Springs, seventy miles from Mayfield, Melissa Goodacre is working in a downtown insurance store helping people file reinstatement claims.

Her office is cold, with electricity provided by a small generator.

This small town of about 2,500 people, where she has lived all her life, struggled before the tornadoes hit, she said.

“Fifty years ago, we had stores all over the place, but after the factory left us, people moved and businesses disappeared,” says Goodacre. “Now it’s just total devastation.”

Goodacre said the people in Dawson Springs are strong and resilient, but she’s starting to sob as she talks about the future of her community.

Homes in Dawson Springs were marked with red paint after they were searched for survivors or victims. The effort to clear the rubble and rebuild will take months, and many homeowners are uninsured.

Brian Mann / NPR


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Brian Mann / NPR

“I don’t know how we’re going to get back, but maybe we can,” she said. “I don’t know how many will stay, but we, part of us, part of the people here will stay and rebuild. Part of them may move on. Can’t say I’m to blame. for them.”

Locals have a fear that too many people will leave town, which will jeopardize the survival of Dawson Springs’ small public school system, which is a large employer. most of the community.

Dennis Brasher, whose home, hardware store and rental property in town were all destroyed by the storm, said “rebuilding is going to be bad.”

Brasher said: “I lost it in 30 seconds. “I worked all my life for it and lost it in minutes.”

Dennis Brasher stands in front of his dilapidated hardware store in Dawson Springs. “I lost it in thirty seconds,” he said. “I worked all my life for it and lost it in minutes.”

Brian Mann / NPR


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Brian Mann / NPR

Many people interviewed by NPR said they were underinsured or uninsured. Another complication is that many people displaced by storms are elderly and low-income.

“My dad is 77 and my mom is 75,” said Jeff Story, who worked Tuesday clearing the rubble of his parents’ ranch and home just outside Dawson Springs. “It’s all gone, everything they worked for.”

Looking across the field full of debris and rubble, Tales shook his head. “It’s the kind of overload, you don’t know where to start. There’s so much destruction,” he said.

Speaking Tuesday, Governor Beshear acknowledged the scale of the rebuilding effort and the hardships many families and business owners face.

“We are going to need a lot of people in the coming weeks and months,” Governor Beshear said. “We’ll be working on reconstruction long after the rest of the country has gone in a different direction, so let’s stay strong.”

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