WASHINGTON – The death toll from a major storm system that lashed the south-central and eastern United States with devastating winds and destructive tornadoes rose to at least 29 by Sunday, officials said.
Tennessee, one of the hardest-hit states since the storms began on Friday, initially had seven weather-related fatalities.
But this rose to 12 after police reported three new deaths on Sunday, saying two children and an adult were killed on Saturday when a tree fell on a house in Memphis.
Scenes of devastation were left in the path of the Tennessee tornado, which twisted trees, flattened homes into piles of wooden boards and ripped walls from still-standing structures.
“The whole house, you can feel it shaking,” said Ms Janice Pieterick, whose house doors and glass windows blew out when the tornado swept through Lewis County. “We just all hunkered down.”
The toll in Tennessee came on top of the 17 deaths reported in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama in the south, Indiana and Illinois in the Midwest, and Delaware in the mid-Atlantic.
The storm system left dozens injured.
It sent multiple tornadoes – some of exceptional size and rare power – sweeping through Arkansas, where they killed at least five people, the state’s governor said.
Daylight revealed extensive damage, with several homes torn apart, cars overturned, power lines toppled and trees ripped out of the ground.
In a statement on Sunday, US President Joe Biden said: “We are working closely with the state of Indiana and other impacted states as they assess damages, and stand ready to respond to any additional requests for Federal assistance.”
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard to help with recovery efforts.
She said she had spoken to Mr Biden, who promised to expedite federal aid.