A tornado has caused “multiple injuries and multiple deaths” in Missouri, US officials have said.
The tornado moved through Bollinger County, about 50 miles south of St Louis, on Wednesday morning, said Sergeant Clark Parrott of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Officials said a search and rescue operation had been launched and it was currently not known how many people had been injured or killed.
Sgt Parrott said it had caused “multiple injuries and multiple deaths”.
He added: “The damage is pretty widespread. It’s just heartbreaking to see it.”
He said the rescue operation involves multiple agencies.
Crews are having to use chainsaws to cut back trees and bushes to reach homes and buildings.
Teams of rescuers have been combing through damaged and destroyed homes and businesses across southeastern Missouri.
“There is damage and some injuries. We are still in the rescue phase,” said Bollinger County Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Cooper.
Images have shown many damaged homes, downed trees and fallen electricity lines.
The tornado touched down in Missouri at about 3:30am local time, according to the National Weather Service.
It was one of more than a dozen which were spotted in the Midwest overnight, the service added.
The twister was spawned from a storm system sweeping across the Midwest and South on Wednesday.
Some 24 million Americans were under the threat of possible tornadoes and severe thunderstorms throughout the day, although some reports say that figure could be considerably higher depending on the system’s precise path.
The storms come just days after a series of US tornados killed at least 32 people when it tore through parts of the South and Midwest, and as far east as Delaware.
Many homes and buildings were destroyed in Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois.