News World At least 25 dead as tornadoes rip through country music capital
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At least 25 dead as tornadoes rip through country music capital

A destroyed auto parts store was among the damage by a tornado in Nashville. Photo: AAP
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Americans had as little as three minutes to brace for impact as an out-of-nowhere tornado tore through Nashville and other parts of Tennessee, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 150.

Buildings were flattened, cars flipped upside down and some 50,000 houses and businesses had their electricity shut off when violent storms and several tornadoes struck at least four counties in the southern state.

Governor William Lee has declared a state of emergency, with many people still unaccounted for as of Wednesday morning (Australian time).

Considered one of America’s top honky-tonk hubs, Nashville was at the forefront of many musicians’ minds, including country stars Dolly Parton, Chris Young, Ron Pope and others who tweeted messages of support.

 

The extreme weather event comes exactly one year after two powerful tornadoes swept through eastern Alabama, killing 23 residents and injuring dozens.

As rescue teams went door to door, searching damaged structures for trapped or injured residents, it emerged that the tornado was on the ground in East Nashville. It hit just six minutes after the warning was issued for the Nashville area, home to 691,000.

Residents to the west in Nashville would have had at little as three minutes lead time before the tornado struck Tennessee – one of 14 states that will be holding primary elections on Super Tuesday.

More than 150 people have been taken to hospitals, city Fire Chief William Swann said.

One resident explained to her local television station WTVF how the storm ripped the roof off part of her home.

“I’m lucky my side didn’t get torn off. The other side is totally torn off,” the woman said.

A home is shown destroyed by high winds from one of several tornadoes in Tennessee. Photo: Getty

Nashville Mayor John Cooper noted “a couple of tragic cases” to WTVF, one of which involved a tree falling on a car.

“We all worry about some people being left in some buildings that have been damaged and I know the first responders are working their way through that problem,” Mr Cooper said.

He later told CNN that the city could have suffered worse and should count itself “lucky” because “schools were out” and “it hit devastatingly a commercial district, but fewer homes than perhaps might have otherwise been expected”.

During Carrie Underwood’s Today show appearance to talk about her new book, she spoke of the terrifying night that unfolded for her husband Mike Fisher and their two young sons.

“He said he had to go upstairs at like 2am and grab the boys and take them down to, we have like a little safe room in our house … I bet everyone was crying at 2am, like freaking out,” she said.

At least 30 people were injured in state capital Nashville and least 48 buildings were destroyed, with many more damaged, Fire Department Director Chief William Swann said.

A tornado passed through Nashville just after midnight leaving a wake of damage in its path. Photo: Getty

Nashville resident Blakeley Galbraith said it was complete “chaos”, with the fire department rushing to save people trapped in her building which flooded with water.

“Our apartments got hit the worst in our neighborhood … Cars on top of our garage were overturned,” Ms Galbraith told NBC News, after leaving “everything” behind and rushing out of her building.

Lightning that accompanied the tornado lit up the darkened sky as the storm rumbled through central Nashville, video posted on Twitter showed.

At daybreak on Tuesday (local time), video footage on local television revealed levelled houses and crumbled businesses in Nashville.

Crushed vehicles, piles of debris and power lines snapped in two were strewn about, and rescue vehicles blocked streets as residents carried their belongings away from their destroyed homes.

President Donald Trump announced plans to visit the affected areas after receiving news of the devastation.

“I want to send my warm wishes to the great people of Tennessee in the wake of the horrible, very vicious tornado that killed at least 19 people and injured many more,” Mr Trump said at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington.

“We’re working with the leaders in Tennessee including their great Gov. Bill Lee to make sure that everything is done properly. FEMA is already on the ground and I’ll be going there on Friday.”

He later tweeted “prayers for all of those affected’, telling those affected that “the federal government is with you all of the way”.

Despite the widespread destruction, polling sites at schools and elsewhere will be open for voting unless otherwise noted, officials said.

“We want people to exercise their rights and get out there and vote,” governor Mr Lee said.

-with AAP