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Sunday June 23, 2024

18 killed as storms, tornadoes extensively damage central US

By AFP
April 02, 2023

WASHINGTON: A major storm system bore down on the US east coast on Saturday, after producing tornadoes and devastating winds across several central states that killed at least 18 people.

Multiple tornadoes swept through Arkansas on Friday, including in the capital Little Rock, killing at least five people, the state’s governor said. Dozens of others have been reported injured. Daylight revealed extensive damage in impacted areas, with several homes torn apart, cars overturned, and trees ripped out of the ground.

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard to help with recovery efforts. The city of Wynne, in the northeastern part of the state, was “cut in half by damage from east to west,” Mayor Jennifer Hobbs told CNN.

The National Weather Service had also issued tornado warnings for several other states, from as far north as Iowa to the southern state of Mississippi, where a twister just last week killed 25 people and caused extensive property damage.

Calamity struck in the Illinois town of Belvidere, outside of Chicago, when severe weather caused the roof and part of the facade of the Apollo Theater to collapse while a heavy-metal band played on stage inside.

TV footage showed emergency personnel carrying out injured concert-goers on stretchers, while video posted on social media showed rubble -- some nearly waist-high -- on the floor of the concert venue, and a gaping hole in the roof.

Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle reported one death and 28 injuries, including five people who were hospitalized with serious injuries. In the neighboring state of Indiana, three people were killed by a storm in Sullivan County, several US media reported, citing local authorities. Overnight tornadoes also claimed one life in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, and one in Madison County, Alabama, emergency officials reported Saturday.

At least 154,000 homes were without power Saturday, according to the US Poweroutage website.

As the system made its way to the US east coast on Saturday, several mid-Atlantic states were under high wind warnings.

“Maximum wind gusts could approach 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour throughout much of the Appalachians, upper Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic today,” the National Weather System warned. Tornadoes are common in the United States, especially in the center and south of the country.

President Joe Biden on Friday visited the Mississippi city of Rolling Fork, one of the worst-hit areas in last week´s tornado. In December 2021, tornadoes killed about 80 people in Kentucky.