LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas first responders will sift through rubble on Saturday, searching for more possible victims after a fierce tornado blasted through the Little Rock area, killing at least two people and injuring dozens.
The twister sheared roofs and walls from many buildings, flipped over vehicles and downed trees and power lines, officials said.
A blast of extreme spring weather swept much of the United States on Friday, menacing the nation’s midsection from Texas to the Great Lakes with thunderstorms and tornados.
In northern Illinois, one person was killed and 28 injured when extreme weather tore the roof off a theater in during a heavy metal concert.
The two Arkansas fatalities occurred in Wynne, about 100 miles (160 km) east of Little Rock, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Friday night.
Although more than 30 people were taken to hospital in the Little Rock area, none had died as of Friday night, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said, adding that the count remained imprecise.
“It is truly by the grace of God that we have not experienced any fatalities to date,” Scott told a news conference.
One of several areas to get battered was a section of western Little Rock that is home to 2,100 people, Assistant Police Chief Andre Dyer said.
Two states away in Belvidere, Illinois, a riverside town near the border with Wisconsin, one person died and 28 others were rushed by ambulance to area hospitals, five of them with serious injuries, Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle told reporters.
Schadle said about 260 people were attending the concert at the city’s Apollo Theater, which featured the headline act Morbid Angel as part of the group’s “Tour of Terror.”
Concert-goer Gabrielle Lewellyn told WTVO television that people took refuge in the basement when the roof came crashing down.
“They dragged someone out from the rubble. And I sat with him and I held his hand and I said everything is going to be OK. I didn’t really know much else what to do,” Lewellyn said.
The turbulent weather came one week after a swarm of thunderstorms unleashed a deadly tornado that devastated the Mississippi town of Rolling Fork, destroying many of the community’s 400 homes and killing 26 people. (Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif., and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)