A monster storm system spawns "catastrophic" tornadoes that touched down into the night across at least seven states in the United States, killing at least 18 people and leaving many others injured.
At least 18 people in small towns and big cities across the US have been killed by storms that tore a path through Arkansas state and collapsed the roof of a packed concert venue in Illinois state.
Possibly dozens of tornadoes touched down into the night across at least seven states on Friday, laying waste to homes and businesses and splintering trees.
Tens of thousands lost power as the storms smothered a swath of the country home to some 85 million people.
The dead included seven in Tennessee's McNairy County, four in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, and three in Sullivan, Indiana.
Other deaths were reported in Alabama, Illinois and Mississippi, along with one near Little Rock, where the mayor said more than 2,000 buildings were in a tornado's path.
Stunned residents of Wynne, a community of about 8,000 people 50 miles (80 kilometres) west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke on Saturday to find the high school's roof shredded and its windows blown out.
Huge trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to nubs. Broken walls, windows and roofs pocked homes and businesses.
“I’m sad that my town has been hit so hard,” said Heidi Jenkins, a salon owner. “Our school is gone, my church is gone. I’m sad for all the people who lost their homes.”
Recovery was already underway, with workers using chain saws to cut fallen trees and bulldozers moving material from shattered structures. Utility trucks worked to restore power.
READ MORE: Powerful tornado kills more than two dozen in Mississippi, Alabama states
In pictures: Fierce tornado blasts through Little Rock, Arkansas, ripping away roofs and walls from many buildings, uprooting trees, flipping over vehicles and leaving hundreds of people injured in southern US state, local media report— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) March 31, 2023
For more: https://t.co/gKL6AhDk32 pic.twitter.com/KQo4c8AXB0
Theatre roof collapsed during concert
In Belvidere, Illinois, a tornado collapsed the roof of the Apollo Theatre as 260 people attended a heavy metal concert, killing one person and injuring 28, five of them severely, officials said.
People rushed to lift the collapsed part of the ceiling and pull people out of the rubble, Gabrielle Lewellyn, who had just entered the theatre, told WTVO-TV.
“They dragged someone out from the rubble, and I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him) ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I didn’t really know much else what to do," Lewellyn said.
Three people died in Indiana's Sullivan County, and some residents in the county seat, Sullivan, remained missing on Saturday, said officials in the area near the Illinois line, about 95 miles (150 kilometres) southwest of Indianapolis.
Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb, at a news conference on Saturday, said nearly 200 structures in the county were damaged, calling it “absolutely unbelievable, like nothing I’ve ever witnessed.”
In the Little Rock area, at least one person was killed and more than two dozen were hurt, some critically, authorities said.
The tornado in Little Rock tore first through neighbourhoods in the western part of the Arkansas capital and then crossed the Arkansas River into North Little Rock, causing widespread damage and killing one person.
In addition, a suspected tornado killed a woman in northern Alabama’s Madison County, said county official Mac McCutcheon. And in northern Mississippi's Pontotoc County, officials confirmed one death and four injuries.