Kentucky tornado: Children miraculously survive after twister rips apart church

Chris Riotta

The survival of 40 children and 10 staff members at the Mt Zion Baptist Church in Kentucky is being hailed as a “miracle” after a tornado ripped the building apart.

The church’s preschool director Michelle Rushing told local news outlet WPSD “God was definitely with us” amid the twister, which touched down on Thursday in western Kentucky.

“The secretary and I walked through the doors just as we heard our glass breaking and felt the suction sucking the roof off,” she added.

The staff members rushed children into what police described as a “safe room” inside the Church, used during emergencies like tornadoes or other natural disasters.

The twister left a path from Lovelaceville, Kentucky through the West Paducah area, according to Keith Todd, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. He said the public was being asked to avoid the area while utility crews, area fire departments, and rescue squads worked to clear utility lines, downed trees and other debris.

“We had six kids in here when the alarms went off.” Ms Rushing said. “When it went off, we used one of their beds to get all the babies to the other side.”

Weather officials in Paducah said it blew past their office.

The National Weather Service in Paducah tweeted, “TORNADO JUST MISSED OUR OFFICE IN WEST PADUCAH. TAKE SHELTER NOW IF YOU’RE IN PADUCAH!!!!” The tweet was posted about 9:30 am local time.

Video of the Kentucky tornado was posted on social media. Jared Borum filmed the forming cyclone as it moved across a field of trees in Paducah. Mr Borum and a room full of others watched the funnel grow and whip across the field.

Weather forecasters have warned numerous severe storms are possible in in the Tennessee Valley region and as far south as the northern Birmingham area following the twister.

Parents said they were concerned for the wellbeing of their children after being unable to reach their teachers amid the tornado.

“People were blowing me up and asking if she was OK,” Kory GioVEngo, whose daughter was in the church during the incident, told the local news outlet.

Additional reporting by AP