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A tornado struck the Amazon delivery station in Edwardsville, Illinois, the US on December 10 2021. Picture: BLOOMBERG
A tornado struck the Amazon delivery station in Edwardsville, Illinois, the US on December 10 2021. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Building codes could be tightened in Illinois, the US, to counter risks from an increasing number of severe storms as investigators examined the fatal collapse of an Amazon.com  warehouse in the state.

Illinois governor JB Pritzker questioned whether building codes needed updating after a tornado struck an Amazon delivery station in Edwardsville late last week, killing six workers and destroying much of the facility.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation.

The tornado was part of a deadly weather system that tore through the central US last week killing at least 75 people during a usually calm time of the year and potentially setting records for the distance it covered. Scientists have not figured out if there is a connection to climate change and tornadoes, but they do know storms in general are becoming more severe.

Pritzker said during a press conference on Monday in Edwardsville, which is near St Louis, that the investigation will look at whether regulations were followed at the Amazon warehouse. He also raised the prospect that climate change may be contributing to a rising number of storms and added that he is speaking with state legislators on “whether we need to change code based upon the climate change that we are seeing all about us”. 

‘Severe storm’

The billionaire Democrat’s comments on the tragedy are part of a broader national discussion regarding the use of long-term averages to define what is normal, which can leave previous decisions about building codes and even crop decisions and insurance rates out of date as the climate changes.

“This tornado was something that was an unexpected major, severe storm. We are seeing more and more of that I might add throughout the state of Illinois,” he said in response to questions from a reporter. “That’s something that we are deeply concerned about to make sure the code is where it ought to be.”

He added that the distribution, warehousing and manufacturing industries are key components of the state’s economy. Illinois is a hub of warehousing and then moving commodities and consumer products throughout the country with intricate networks of railways, airports, rivers and roadways running through it. More than 20% of its non-agriculture jobs come from trade, transportation and utilities and another 10% are from manufacturing.

“We want to attract those businesses. We want to keep those businesses here in Illinois, and yes, we want to make sure the code is up to date, especially up to date given the serious change in climate we’ve seen across the country,” Pritzker said.

Bloomberg  News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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