Severe storms and at least one tornado swept through central Tennessee, killing 24 people on Tuesday and wrecking hundreds of buildings before crack of dawn.
“It’s a tragic day in our state,” Gov. Bill Lee told local reporters. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Initial reports reported damage to EF-3 tornado in East Nashville, the Donelson area of Nashville, and in Mt. Juliet, a town about 20 miles east of Nashville, according to local media sources.
Among the victims was a couple struck by debris shortly after they left the Attaboy Lounge, a cocktail bar in East Nashville where one of them worked, the Metro Nashville Police Department announced.
Eighteen people were reported dead in Putnam County as of Tuesday evening, three in Wilson County, two in Davidson County and one in Benton County, the Tennessee Emergency Management Authority said.
The agency said that one death reported earlier in Putnam County was not linked to the storm.
Officials from Putnam County have said they are trying to find 77 individuals for whom they are unaccounted.
Hours after the powerful storm hit the area, local officials continued to search for survivors through piles of rubble. Then volunteers started cleaning up the various houses, restaurants, then churches left in ruins, such as the East End United Methodist in Nashville.
“We have to go through that to make sure no one is left behind,” Mayor John Cooper said, adding that 48 buildings have fallen, others have been destroyed and about 150 people have been taken to hospitals because of the storm.
Parts of the apartment and other multi-story buildings were ripped open in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville alone, with bricks, roofing material and glass strewn about, pictures from a news source showed.