After grimly fluctuating death tolls since Friday’s devastating swarm of tornadoes, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said on Monday that there were 64 confirmed deaths in the state, though he expected that number to rise as crews continued to search through the ruins.
“It may be a week or even more before we have a final count,” the governor said in a news conference, adding that as many as 105 people in Kentucky were still unaccounted for.
Mr. Beshear said that of the confirmed deaths, 18 victims were still unidentified. The ages of the victims, he said, his voice frequently breaking with emotion, ranged from five months to 86 years. Six of the victims were under 18.
The most pointed questions over the number of deaths have been focused on a candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., which was completely crushed in the storm. It has been estimated that 110 people were at work at the factory on Friday night when the tornado hit. For days, it was unclear how many had made it out.
But on Sunday night, a glimmer of hope emerged, with executives at the company that operated the factory suggesting that the number of missing employees was much lower than initially thought. Troy Propes, the chief executive of Mayfield Consumer Products, said in an interview late Sunday that eight employees were dead and six were still missing.
On Monday, the governor said that officials were trying to confirm what executives had told them: that 94 of the 110 people at work that night are alive and have been accounted for.
“We are actively working to confirm that information,” he said. “We pray that it is true.”
Even with early indications that Mayfield’s death toll could be smaller than initially feared, Mr. Beshear braced the public on Sunday for more victims to be announced in the days ahead. At least four counties in Kentucky have deaths “in double digits,” Mr. Beshear said.
The death toll included a dozen people in Warren County, several of them children. In Muhlenberg County, there were 11 victims, all in the tiny town of Bremen.
Michael Dossett, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said of the recovery effort: “This will go on for years.”