The death toll from a violent storm that whipped up tornadoes in the Southern and Midwestern regions of the United States rose to at least 29 over the weekend, according to officials and media reports.
More than 900,000 places were without power after tornadoes tore through the regions this weekend.
More than 50 preliminary reports of tornadoes that hit on Friday night were recorded across eight states, with twister-producing conditions continuing into Saturday as the massive storm system threatened a broad swath of the country.
Nine weather-related deaths were reported in Tennessee county. Other deaths were reported in Alabama, Illinois and Mississippi, along with one near Little Rock, Arkansas, where the mayor said more than 2,000 buildings were in a tornado’s path.
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The National Weather Service said that tornado was a high-end EF3 twister with wind speeds up to 265km/h (165mph) and a path as long as 40km (25 miles).
Three of those who died in Indiana were in an area near Sullivan, a city southwest of Indianapolis. In Madison county, Alabama, one person died and five were injured overnight, officials said.
Some of the latest deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 26, were confirmed in McNairy county, Tennessee.
One of the worst-hit areas was Arkansas, where four died in the small city of Wynne, as the storm destroyed homes and people trapped in the debris. The state’s governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that the town – west of Memphis, Tennessee – saw “widespread damage” from a tornado.
In Mississippi’s Pontotoc county, one person died and four others were injured, according to the Mississippi emergency management agency.
In Illinois, almost the entire Chicago area was under some type of severe weather warning or watch on Friday night, hours after the National Weather Service warned of a “particularly dangerous situation” in the face of an unusually large outbreak of thunderstorms with the potential to cause hail, damaging wind gusts and strong tornadoes that could move for long distances over the ground.
Meteorologists said conditions on Friday were similar to those a week ago that unleashed the devastating twister that killed at least 21 people and damaged about 2,000 homes in Mississippi.
Late on Friday in the town of Belvidere, about 113km northwest of Chicago, one person was killed and were 40 hurt, including two with life-threatening injuries, after the roof of the Apollo Theatre collapsed during a tornado there.
The Belvidere fire department chief, Shawn Schadle, said 260 people were in the venue at the time. He said first responders also rescued someone from an elevator and had to grapple with downed power lines outside the theatre.
The town’s police chief described the scene after the collapse as “chaos, absolute chaos”. – Guardian/Reuters