Two win more than US$250m each in American Powerball
Lucky pair in Arizona and Missouri to share second largest jackpot in US history
Two people have won more than US$250 million each, each beating odds of one in 175 million to share the second largest jackpot in US history.
The Powerball lottery's website crashed shortly after the winning numbers - 5, 23, 16, 22, 29, with Powerball 6 - were announced late on Wednesday, as did that of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which oversees Powerball.
Tickets were selling at an average of 130,000 a minute across the United States in the hours before the drawing, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. That equates to players buying 7.8 million tickets an hour, spending US$15.6 million an hour for a chance to win the jackpot.
The Powerball website said players in Arizona and Missouri had the winning numbers, without providing further information. It was not yet clear if anyone had come forth to claim the prize.
Another 8.9 million players won lesser prizes totalling US$131 million.
A lottery official said late on Wednesday that the jackpot increased to US$579.9 million by the time of the drawing, making the immediate cash option US$379.8 million.
The drawing of Wednesday night's prize followed 16 consecutive drawings that produced no top winner, boosting the Powerball to become the second-largest lottery jackpot in US history. The twice-weekly grand prize for Powerball - available in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands - had not been won since October 6.
Winning numbers are made up of five out of 59 white balls plus one out of 35 red "Powerballs".
The odds of winning stood at one in 175.2 million - compared to the one in a million chance of being struck by lightning in a given year.
"I'm buying this lottery ticket so I can put my pencil down and walk out of my office and live my dreams," quipped a 40-something woman named Szami earlier as she bought a batch of tickets for herself and friends at a Washington corner store, declining to give her family name.
"It's phenomenal. There's a lot of excitement in the air," added Kimberly Chopin of the Louisiana state lottery, which had sold US$2.5 million in tickets by mid-afternoon on Wednesday - compared to US$1.1 million a week earlier.
The biggest jackpot in US lottery history - US$640 million - was claimed by MegaMillions players in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland who all held tickets bearing the same winning number. Lottery winnings in the United States are subject to taxation, with winners typically getting a choice between an annuity spread over many years or a reduced amount paid out in a lump sum.
Additional reporting by Associated Press