US tornadoes: Death toll grows as extreme storms ravage several states
A series of tornadoes that ripped through the United States South and Midwest has resulted in at least 21 deaths.
Homes were destroyed and thousands were left without power after tornadoes caused devastation across several states.
Arkansas saw cars being flipped, trees falling and power lines were torn down.
Five people were killed in the state, along with seven others in Tennessee, four in Illinois, and three in Indiana. There were also fatalities in Alabama and Mississippi.
One resident of the Arkansas state capital Little Rock – the scene of a major tornado – told the Washington Post he had been left feeling “utter disbelief”.
“I’ve lived in this community since 1985. I know the whole county pretty well. Not being able to recognize landmarks just has me in shock… I saw a storage building laying three miles down the road from where it was supposed to be,” he said.
One person died in Little Rock, alongside four others in the small town of Wynne.
“I’m sad that my town has been hit so hard,” Heidi Jenkins, a salon owner in Wynne, told AP news agency. “Our school is gone, my church is gone. I’m sad for all the people who lost their homes.”
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency in the state of Arkansas on Friday, with the national guard activated to help with recovery efforts.
She said she had spoken to President Joe Biden about the situation, who promised federal aid.
Warnings of extreme weather, including the possibility of severe thunderstorms and strong winds, were set to stay in place for Saturday across the eastern third of the country, the National Weather Service said. Strong winds and hail were also forecast.
A total of over 60 tornadoes were reported across several states on Friday and Saturday by the US government’s Storm Prediction Center.
Over 590,000 people are without power across several states in the country, with Ohio and Pennsylvania being the worst affected, according to the US PowerOutage website.
Tennessee – where over 105,000 are without power – experienced the most lethal storm, with seven deaths in the county of McNairy, near the border with Mississippi, officials said on Saturday.
“The damage and loss that our community suffered last night was catastrophic,” Adamsville city police department wrote in a statement on Facebook.
Friday’s storm also led to the collapse of a theatre roof at a packed heavy metal gig in Belvidere, Illinois state, leading to one death and 28 people getting injured.
On Saturday, officials announced three more deaths in Illinois’s Crawford county.
The deadly tornadoes come a week after a rare, long-track twister killed 26 people in Mississippi. President Biden visited the state on Friday to pay his condolences.
In a bulletin, the Storm Prediction Center warned some of the projected tornadoes could track across the ground for long distances.
The Mississippi tornado last week traveled 59 miles (94km) and lasted about an hour and 10 minutes – an unusually long period for a storm to sustain itself. It damaged about 2,000 homes, officials said.