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Powerful tornado hurtles in the path of 960 buildings in Kansas

A powerful tornado tore through the Wichita area of ​​Kansas on Friday night, ripping through the path of nearly 1,000 buildings, injuring several residents and leaving thousands without power.

The “direct tornado attack” began in Sedgwick County before traveling to Andover, flattening dozens of structures in its path, officials said at a morning news conference Saturday.

Emergency services are still working to determine the extent of the damage, but around 960 buildings are known to have been in the tornado’s path.

Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said they had counted between 50 and 100 damaged buildings in Sedgwick County so far with some homes “completely leveled” by the tornado.

“We had a lot of buildings in Andover that were very heavily damaged,” he added.

No deaths have been reported and Chief Russell expressed relief that all residents have been accounted for, with only a relatively small number of reported injuries.

The injured include three people in Sedgwick County, including a woman who suffered serious injuries, he said.

More than 20,000 homes and businesses in Kansas were plunged into darkness when power went out in the immediate aftermath of the tornado.

As of 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, it had been largely restored with only about 1,900 homes still without power, according to power Outage.us, as residents now resort to the lengthy recovery process.

The Wichita National Weather Service said it would send crews to survey the damage Saturday morning and expressed its “thoughts and prayers” to all those affected.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tornadoes tonight,” the agency tweeted.

“In order to determine the strength of these tornadoes, we will be sending some teams out on Saturday morning to do damage surveys.”

A video posted on social media showed the massive tornado traveling through the state with debris flying through the air and panicked residents urging people to take shelter.

Images of the aftermath revealed cars overturned on roads and houses destroyed as emergency services searched the rubble for any injured.

The severe weather prompted Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to issue a state of emergency in the state around 9 p.m. Friday night, saying “we can’t wait for the storm to come before we respond.”

“By taking these steps early, we are able to react more quickly when counties request assistance,” he said.

By that time, severe storms had already downed power lines and damaged buildings in several counties.