Tornadoes wreak havoc across Midwest

Five dead as storm leaves small Illinois town looking like a war zone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:20pm

A fast-moving storm system has triggered multiple tornadoes that killed at least five people and flattened large parts of a town in Illinois as it tore across the US Midwest.

The storm also forced the Chicago Bears American football team to halt their game against the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL fans at the team's Soldier Field stadium to seek shelter as menacing clouds rolled in. Chicago's two major airports briefly stopped traffic while the metropolitan area was under a tornado watch.

Washington County in southern Illinois recorded winds of 260-320 km/h, with a small farmhouse there taking a direct hit.

"The homestead was totally destroyed with only the foundation remaining," officials said.

A total of 80 tornado reports were received. An estimated 140,000 people were without power in Illinois on Sunday night, along with 100,000 Michigan residents.

The town of Washington, Illinois, was hit especially hard by the tornadoes, which ripped through Indiana and Kentucky as well as Illinois and a small corner of Ohio.

"It's a sad day in Washington. The devastation is just unbelievable. You just can't imagine. It looks like a war zone in our community," Washington Mayor Gary Manier said. "It's kind of widespread and went right through our community of 15,000 people."

Hundreds of homes in the town, 230km southwest of Chicago, were destroyed.

One person died there, while in Washington County an 80-year-old man and his 78-year-old sister were killed when their home was demolished in the storm. Two people were killed in Massac County, Illinois.

"It wiped out homes, mobile homes," said Charles Taylor, deputy director of the Emergency Services and Disaster Agency in Massac County. "It downed trees, power lines. We have gas leaks, numerous injuries whether they were in mobile homes or outdoors. Even in the motor vehicles, people have been trapped."

Illinois police said some people may be trapped in their basements under debris.

The tornado came out of a fast-moving storm system that originally headed towards Chicago as it threatened a large swathe of the Midwest.