Tornadoes in the USA have killed at least 30 people after they tore through the midwest.
The casualties which centred around the Missouri city of Joplin, which has a population of 50,000, came from a powerful tornado late on Sunday afternoon, causing extensive property damage.
“At this point we know we are up into the 30 range,” said the Newton County coroner, Mark Bridges.
“We have heard up into the over-100 [range], but … I don’t think anyone has a good count right now,” he said of the casualties. He also said that 11 bodies had been recovered from one location.
The storms continued to build on the violent weather this spring in the US, which saw more than 330 deaths last month as tornadoes hit seven states. That included 238 deaths in Alabama on 27 April as twisters battered Tuscaloosa and other urban areas.
The Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, said earlier that an unknown number of people had died in his state: “We don’t have any numbers, but we have had confirmation that there have been deaths.”
He declared a state of emergency and announced he was ordering Missouri national guard troops be deployed to help state troopers and other agencies respond to storms that he said “have caused extensive damage across Missouri”.
Whole neighbourhoods as well as a hospital in Joplin were badly damaged, according to authorities and local television footage.
“It’s done quite a bit of damage,” a police officer in Joplin said. “It hit quite a few parts of town.”
Denise Bayless, 57, was at church with her husband when their adult son called to say the tornado was hitting his house.
The couple got in their car to drive to his aid and discovered that many buildings on Main Street were levelled and the city’s only high school was burning.
“We just had to weave in and out of debris. Power lines were down everywhere, and you could smell gas. It was scary,” she said.
Carla Tabares and her husband, Tony, were in the Outback steakhouse in Joplin when the tornado hit. They had just run through rain into the restaurant and sat down to order when a waitress told them a tornado was headed their way.
“It was really awful, really scary,” said Tabares.
She and her husband squeezed into the restaurant’s cooler with several families and children in the dark, hearing the howling winds outside. They emerged to find their building largely unscathed but several other nearby restaurants and businesses suffered severe damage.
“I’m just thankful we got out alive and I really feel sorry for the people who didn’t,” said Tabares.
Another tornado ripped through the north Minneapolis and some suburbs on Sunday, tearing roofs off dozens of homes and garages, killing one person and injuring at least 30 others, authorities said.
The twister struck on Sunday afternoon and ploughed across an 8 km area in a north-easterly direction, an assistant city fire chief, Cherie Penn, said.
About 22,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity.
Tornadoes overnight on Saturday in north-east Kansas killed one person and damaged some 200 structures. A state of emergency was declared for 16 counties, state officials said