At least 21 people have died in the southern and central US as tornadoes and severe storms have destroyed homes and businesses, according to the latest tally from authorities.

Tennessee has seven people dead from the severe weather that hit McNary County east of Memphis, Maggie Hannan, a spokeswoman for the state’s disaster management agency, told AFP.

Their number is added to the 14 other victims in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, in the American South, as well as those of Indiana and Illinois, in the central-eastern part of the country.

Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas, was hit particularly hard. Residents witnessed images of devastation, with cars overturned, huge trees uprooted, telecommunication poles broken or even houses destroyed. At least five people have died in that state, according to Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“We know that many people have been displaced and are seeking shelter,” said Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott.

Sanders, who said yesterday that she had spoken to President Joe Biden, had declared a state of emergency and deployed about 100 members of the National Guard.

Mississippi authorities, for their part, announced one death and several injuries in Pontotoc County, about 200 kilometers south of Memphis.

An elderly man was also killed in Alabama when a tornado tore through his home, officials in Huntsville, near the state’s border with Tennessee, said.

In the northern part of the country, in the small town of Belvidere, west of Chicago in the state of Illinois, part of the roof and facade of the theater collapsed due to the severe storm during a musical concert.

Belvidere Fire Chief Sean Saddle said one person was dead and 28 were injured, five of whom were in serious condition.

In Crawford County, three people were killed in a house collapse, said Kevin Shur, a spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

In neighboring Indiana, three people were killed by a storm in Sullivan County, authorities said.

More than 650,000 households were without power yesterday in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, according to the US website PowerOutage.