Deadly twisters ravage US state

Top News | ASSOCIATED PRESS 5 Mar 2020

Emergency teams searched through shattered Tennessee neighborhoods for bodies less than a day after tornadoes ripped across Nashville and other parts of the US state as families slept. At least 25 people were killed, some in their beds.

The fast-moving twisters that struck in the hours after midnight shredded more than 140 buildings and buried people in rubble and basements.

"They hit so fast a lot of folks didn't have time to take shelter," Putnam county mayor Randy Porter said. "Many of these folks were sleeping."

The governor declared an emergency and sent the National Guard to help with search-and-rescue efforts with an unspecified number of people missing.

Damage in Nashville and an area to the east was inflicted by a tornado with a wind speed of up to 266 kilometers an hour. Homes and businesses were wrecked across a 16km stretch of Nashville.

Another tornado damaged more than 100 structures along a 3.5km path of destruction in Putnam county, ripping some homes from their foundations and depositing the wreckage far away.

Daybreak revealed landscapes littered with blown-down walls and roofs, snapped power lines and broken trees, making many city streets and rural roads impassable.

More than a dozen polling stations were also damaged, forcing Super Tuesday voters to wait in long lines at alternative sites.

In Putnam, 130km east of Nashville, houses and businesses were completely flattened. In one neighborhood, volunteers found five bodies. Neighbors and sheriff's officers were looking for two more. Later, authorities imposed an 8pm to 8am curfew in the county after a looting report.

In Nashville, the damage was mostly north and east of the heart of downtown, sparing many of the city's biggest tourism draws - the honky tonks of Broadway, the Grand Ole Opry House, the storied Ryman Auditorium and the convention center.

Instead the storm tore through the largely African American areas of Bordeaux and North Nashville and neighborhoods transformed by a building boom.

"The dogs started barking before the sirens went off," said Paula Wade of East Nashville. "They knew what was coming.

"Then we heard the roar. Something made me just sit up in bed, and something came through the window above my head. If I hadn't moved I would've gotten a face full of glass.''

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