TENNESSEE (CelebrityAccess) – A deadly tornado ripped through Tennessee early Tuesday morning, killing at least 22 people and causing widespread damage.
Two of the fatalities occurred in East Nashville, according to a tweet from the Metro Nashville Police Department. The Tennessee Department of Health said it had confirmed deaths in Putnam, Wilson, Davidson and Benton Counties.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper told WTVF that there were also about 20 people in hospital at the time.
“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Mayor Cooper said on Twitter. “My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. Be sure to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need, and let’s come together as a community once more. Together, we will get through this and come out stronger.”
Additionally, The Nashville Fire Department has reported that they were responding to 40 structure collapses around the city and advised people to avoid debris.
The Basement East, a popular Nashville music club, was severely damaged, the venue said on its Twitter account, adding “All staff working tonight are okay!”
According to the Associated Press, the fast-moving storm struck around 2 A.M. and moved so rapidly, people did not have time to evacuate.
“It hit so fast, a lot of folks didn’t have time to take shelter,” Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter told the AP. “Many of these folks were sleeping.”
The National Weather Service withdrew the tornado warning around 3 a.m., however, urged people to “stay alert” as more thunderstorms were expected, with heavy rains and winds up to 50 miles per hour.
At least one cyclone carved a 10-mile swath through a section of downtown Nashville, leaving a trail of devastation that included more than 3 dozen buildings, as well as the belltower and stained glass windows of a historic church.
Nashville officials have said that schools in the area will be closed on Tuesday.
UPDATE: As of 10:00AM ET March 4, 24 people have now been reported dead following the tornado.