At least eight people have died after a series of tornadoes ripped across Tennessee early Tuesday, destroying buildings and toppling powerlines in the capital of Nashville hours before the southern US state was to vote in Super Tuesday primaries, officials said.
Melisa Hucks of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported that the statewide death toll was “eight at this time” and that fatalities had occurred across four counties.
The Nashville Fire Department said that it was responding to reports of approximately 40 structure collapses around the city.
Smashed buildings, downed power lines and debris could be seen across the city, where a tornado tore through shortly after midnight.
“A line of severe storms passed through Tennessee and has caused major damage to buildings, roads, bridges, utilities and businesses in several counties,” TEMA said.
“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Mayor John Cooper wrote on Twitter, urging people to lend a helping hand.
Tennessee is one of 14 states voting in the crucial Super Tuesday primaries, which will help determine the Democratic nominee for November’s presidential election.
Voting was to start an hour late in Nashville and Wilson County due to the tornado damage, with several alternate polling sites set up, local newspaper The Tennessean reported.
Governor Bill Lee said he and his wife were sending “prayers across Tennessee this morning as our state suffers from last night’s storms.”
Nashville is best known as the epicentre of the United States’ country music scene.