Six workers died inside an Amazon delivery facility in Edwardsville, Illinois after a tornado ripped through the building on Friday, according to a statement from Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker.
The death toll was raised to six after search and rescue workers declared there were no more missing persons reports. The tornado reportedly formed in the parking lot of the facility and directly hit one of the two shelter areas where workers took cover after the tornado warning went off. Amazon calculated approximately 11 minutes passed between the first warning of the tornado and the direct hit on the facility.
Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer and on track to surpass Walmart for the top spot in the next few years. Most of the workers at the Edwardsville facility are hired by contracting companies to work for Amazon, according to a New York Times report. The company was initially unable to confirm the total number of people inside the warehouse at the time the storm struck because of the various subcontracted jobs and people moving in and out of the warehouse for delivery, though Pritzker confirmed that 45 people escaped the facility alive.
While Amazon has instituted a ban on cell phones in delivery areas in the past, that ban was lifted as a pandemic precaution and has not been reinstated in most facilities, including this one. Some workers across the country have said they feel especially strongly that the no-phones policy should never return, given the importance of communications during emergencies.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and Jeff Bezos, now Amazon executive chairman, both shared their thoughts and prayers and said in statements on Twitter that Amazon is working with first responders.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the governor's initials. This story was updated on Dec. 13, 2021.