This Saturday, the state of Arkansas (in the south of the United States) mourns its dead after the passage of a powerful tornado on Friday. Two people have died in the small town of Wynne, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a press conference, who declared a state of emergency and deployed around 100 National Guardsmen. “Central Arkansas sustained significant damage,” she tweeted.
Additionally, Pulaski County – home to Arkansas’ hard-hit capital Little Rock – confirmed a third death to AFP. “About 30 people were transported to hospitals” in the city, Frank Scott, mayor of Little Rock, told the press. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued tornado warnings for parts of neighboring states like Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Iowa. The tornado left in its wake a spectacle of desolation with overturned cars, huge uprooted trees, broken telephone poles and gutted houses.
“A razed and destroyed neighborhood”
Lara Farrar, a reporter for a local business publication, told AFP by phone that she was “totally shocked” when she discovered the damage near her home in Little Rock. “The roof of some buildings was completely blown off,” she testified, sharing images of destroyed houses, the walls partially torn down, trees on the ground. “The neighborhood was simply completely razed and destroyed,” she added, referring to significant destruction on a strip about 500 meters wide but with “very little damage” outside.
In the north of the country, in the small town of Belvidere, west of Chicago in the State of Illinois, part of the roof and the facade of the Apollo Theater collapsed during the passage of a violent storm. A concert by a heavy metal band was underway, according to local media. Shawn Schadle, Belvidere Fire Chief, reported one death and 28 injuries, including five hospitalized with serious injuries. More than twenty ambulances were mobilized, according to the local press. Television footage showed injured spectators being evacuated on stretchers, and photos on social media showed a waist-deep pile of debris and a gaping hole in the roof in the venue.
78,000 people without electricity
In the neighboring state of Indiana (north), two people were killed by a storm in Sullivan County, reported the television channel WTHI quoting the Indiana police. Images posted on Twitter by the WTHI channel showed downed telephone poles, collapsed houses and debris on the roads. The Arkansas tornado hit in the afternoon, sweeping through several neighborhoods in Little Rock. More than 78,000 people were deprived of electricity in this state, according to the American site Poweroutage.
Tornadoes, meteorological phenomena as impressive as they are difficult to predict, are common in the United States, especially in the center and south of the country. A week ago, a tornado swept through Mississippi, killing 25 people and causing immense property damage. President Joe Biden visited the site on Friday. In December 2021, about 80 people lost their lives after tornadoes hit Kentucky.