Tornadoes ripped through Arkansas and Oklahoma states in the south-central US yesterday, killing at least 17 people and devastating entire neighbourhoods, authorities said, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors.
Winds battered houses off their foundations and blew away cars to the top of rubble television pictures showed.
According to Arkansas authorities at least 10 people died. There were six more deaths across the state - the first reported fatalities of this year's tornado season. The sheriff's department said another person was killed in neighboring Oklahoma.
While efforts focused on searching the rubble to trace survivors, a spokesman for the County Sheriff's office said there was a "mass casualty situation".
State congressman, Tim Griffin told Reuters that an entire neighbourhood of 50 or so homes had been destroyed, many homes were completely gone except the foundation. He added, there was more devastation like that in other parts of Arkansas.
The nightmare was not a stranger to the community of about 3,800 people. The town had been ravaged by another storm three years ago to the day following essentially the same path, the mayor said.
He added there were a few buildings partially standing, but the amount of damage was tremendous. He added there were gas lines spewing, the power power lines were down and houses were just a pile of brick.
The situation was the same in the neighboring Mayflower, a town of 1,600 about 20 miles to the southwest.
A section of Interstate Highway 40 was shut down by authorities after a tornado "as much as a half-mile wide" roared through the area, according to the National Weather Service. According to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who was in Mayflower, the winds from the storm hit at 130-150 mph.