The Mayfield Consumer Products Factory is the third largest employer in this western corner of Kentucky, an important economic engine that produces the candles that line the shelves of malls across the United States.
But why its workers continued to make candles Friday night as a tornado battered the area remains unclear as rescuers continue to scour the plant’s rubble for signs of damage. life.
The Kentucky governor said Sunday the storm was so intense that there was no safe place to hide inside the factory.
“It seems most have taken shelter where they were told to take shelter,” Gov. Andy Beshear speak. “I hope the area is as safe as possible, but this thing was hit by the strongest tornado we could imagine.”
Of the 110 workers who overnighted Friday, Beshear said early Sunday that only 40 people had been rescued and that it would be a miracle if any more were found alive. He said later on Sunday that it could be a “better situation” than initially feared as the state worked to verify the number of workers supplied by the factory.
Some workers said they were told to gather in the central corridor, the strongest part of the building, as the storm approached.
Autumn Kirks, who works at the factory with her boyfriend, who is still missing, said: “That’s where everyone has to go. “We’ve stopped everything and tried to be as sheltered as possible.”
Kirks said a weather warning siren earlier in her shift sent some workers off work at night.
“I know a lot of workers who have left. We thought about it but decided against it,” she said.
The factory where she and her boyfriend work employs many people in and around Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 people in the southwestern corner of Kentucky. It is Graves County’s third-largest employer, according to the county’s website. Even some inmates at the county jail used to work there.
Scented candles made in the factory eventually found their way onto the shelves of popular retailers like Bath & Body Works. The Ohio The retailer said in a statement that it was “devastated by the appalling loss of life at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory – a longtime partner of ours.”
And this is high season in Mayfield because of the lighting of gift candles as Christmas approaches. Not long before the disaster struck, the company posted on Facebook that they are looking to hire more people for 10- to 12-hour shifts involving fast-paced work and mandatory overtime.
Most US candle makers used to fill their holiday orders in early November, but shortages, said Kathy LaVanier, CEO of Ohio-based Renegade Candle Company. Labor and other economic trends tied to the COVID-19 pandemic have extended the recession into December. a board member at the National Candlestick Association.
LaVanier said candlemakers across the US are horrified by what happened in Kentucky and are trying to find ways to help. Unlike many other manufactured products, most candles sold in the US are made in the US, in part because of the high and longstanding tariffs on candles made in China.
“All of us in the candle business are reeling,” she said. “It could be any of us.”
LaVanier said regular disaster drills are important at candle factories, especially to include temporary workers who may be new to the area to meet spikes in demand. But the way they’re built – rarely with basements and structured to accommodate long production lines – it’s hard to avoid damage when a hurricane really wreaks havoc.
“If we had enough advance notice and felt it was serious enough, you could send everyone home,” she said.
Bryanna Travis, 19, and Jarred Holmes, 20, stood guard near the ruins of the Mayfield candle factory Saturday, where they had worked for months, often for around $14.50 a hour. The engaged couple was inactive when the storm made landfall.
“I have worked with these people. I talked to these people. I’ve been trying to build connections with these people. And I don’t know if one of my friends is gone,” said Holmes.
Holmes said there were no drills during the time they worked at the plant to prepare people in the event of a storm.
“We haven’t had one since we’ve been there,” he said.
Mayfield Consumer Products executives did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. The company said in a statement on its website that it has started an emergency fund to help employees and their families. The company was founded in 1998 and split from another company a few years ago.
“We are heartbroken about this and our immediate efforts are to support those affected by this terrible disaster,” Troy Propes CEO said in the statement. “Our company is family owned and our employees, some of whom have worked with us for many years, are appreciated.”
The Kentucky state health and safety agency’s website lists a series of 12 safety violations at the plant in 2019, though it doesn’t say what they’re for.
Beshear told CNN on Sunday that his understanding was that it had an emergency plan.
“We believe most of the workers have gone to what is believed to be the safest place in the facility,” he said sadly. “But when you see the damage this storm caused not just there but across the region, I’m not sure there. is a plan that may have worked. ”
O’Brien reports from Ascertainment Rhode Island. AP writer Bruce Schreiner contributed to this report.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/andy-beshear-ohio-facebook-covid-chinese-b1974715.html Planning questions appear at the candle factory destroyed by the tornado