St Louis: Suspected tornadoes killed at least 10 people in an Illinois town and two more people in Missouri as powerful storms ripped through the Midwest, obliterating homes, churches and businesses across five states, authorities said on Wednesday.
Ten of the deaths occurred in Harrisburg, Illinois, the county coroner said. Television images from the town of 10,000 showed collapsed businesses and overturned trucks.
A Wal-Mart and other stores were smashed, a hospital was damaged, and debris including mattresses littered the trees.
"(The tornado) cut a path of destruction that was just devastating," Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg told CNN.
"There are semis toppled, cars thrown into lakes, and everything else. It`s nothing like I`ve ever seen and hope to never see again," Gregg said.
Another person was killed in a mobile home park in rural Buffalo, Missouri, and another 13 were injured by the suspected twister, said Lamont Swanson, coroner for Dallas County.
"There was very extensive damage in that trailer park," Swanson said. "I saw one residence completely destroyed."
A man in Stoddard County in southeast Missouri was killed when his
mobile home was destroyed.
"It looks like it just exploded," Dale Moreland of the county`s emergency management service said.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, citing "widespread damage in several communities," including in the tourist mecca Branson. In a news release, the governor said there were at least three deaths in the state, but officials could not confirm the fatality figure.
The violent weather tracked through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service. There were tornado watches issued for parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Ohio.
Several homes were destroyed and others damaged in and around Newburgh, Indiana, emergency officials said, though there were no deaths or injuries reported. The suspected tornado was a half-mile wide on the ground, based on the damage, said Madison Seib, a public information officer in Warrick County, Indiana.
The storm whipped through Branson at about 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, damaging the theater and restaurant district known as "the strip" and knocking out power to most of the community.
"We are still in shock," said Rose Atchley in the city administrator`s office. "The strip is totally shut off. There is lots of debris here and there. We are struggling along."
If the storm had struck earlier, when people were attending shows, the toll could have been worse, Atchley said.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback also declared a state of emergency in Wabaunsee County near the state capital of Topeka. A tornado touched down in Harveyville in that county.
The tornado caused critical injuries to three people in Harveyville, a fourth person also was sent to a hospital and eight people had minor injuries, said Jane Welch of the Kansas Department of Emergency Management.