Large Tornado Struck Nashville Early Tuesday Morning

More than 20 people are dead and officials fear the death toll could still rise, as rescuers continued yesterday to search through damage after tornadoes ripped across Nashville and other parts of Tennessee early yesterday morning as families slept.

At least 24 people were killed, some in their beds, authorities said.

The twisters that struck in the hours after midnight shredded more than 140 buildings and buried people in piles of rubble and wrecked basements. The storms moved so quickly that many people in their path could not flee to safer areas.

The governor of Tennessee declared an emergency and sent the National Guard to help with search-and-rescue efforts. State emergency officials, who initially reported at least 25 dead, revised the toll to 24 fatalities last night.

An unspecified number of people were missing.

Early findings by National Weather Service survey teams indicated that the damage in Nashville and Wilson County to the east was inflicted by a tornado of at least EF-3 intensity, the agency said.

One twister wrecked homes and businesses across a 10-mile stretch of Nashville that included parts of downtown, destroying more than three dozen buildings.     Another tornado damaged more than 100 structures along a 2-mile path of destruction in Cookeville, which is just a little over an hour south of Lake Cumberland.

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