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Town Near Peoria ‘Flattened’ By Tornado, At Least One Dead There

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UPDATES to this developing story here.

CHICAGO (CBS) – One person has died following a tornado that tore through the central Illinois town of Washington, near Peoria, on Sunday.

The victim in Washington is a 51-year-old man, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency tells CBS 2. The Tazewell County community was among the hardest hit when severe weather barreled through Illinois; another five people were killed in Southern Illinois.

“There’s quite a few people that are hurt. Their houses are gone,” Washington Ald. Tyler Gee tells WBBM Newsradio.

The tornado touched down shortly before 11 a.m. Authorities urged outsiders to stay away, as public-safety officials dealt with the devastation, including broken water mains, downed power lines and gas leaks.

National Guard troops were expected to secure the area.

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“I went over there immediately after the tornado, walking through the neighborhoods, and I couldn’t even tell what street I was on. Just completely flattened – some of the neighborhoods here in town. Hundreds of homes.”

Alderman Gee says he went door-to-door, yelling in windows. He said he heard banging on a wall.

“I had to climb in through the window. The front door was blocked shut. I climbed in and there was debris up against the bathroom door that she was in… I had to get the debris out to open the door.”

Gee says he is part of the Emergency Services and Disaster Agency response team in that area, and unbeknownst to him, he was in the path of the storm.

He moved locations, he says. “And that was a very, very good decision. It went right through where I was sitting in my pickup truck. It was unbelievable.”

Tornado damage in Washington, Ill. (Credit: Colin Hinkle)

Tornado damage in Washington, Ill. (Credit: Colin Hinkle)

“All I can ask for is a bunch of prayers from everybody… we’re going to need them.”

A Facebook page immediately sprang up Sunday to inform people about the latest developments.

Earlier Sunday, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency said two people died in Washington County in Southern Illinois.  Three also died in Brookport, Ill., near the Kentucky border, bringing the toll to six fatalities.

According to ComEd, more than 70,000 customers in the Chicago area are without power.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., promised to seek funding to help assist hard-hit areas in his state.

“While we don’t yet know the full extent of the damage, it is clear that coordinated local, state and federal resources will be needed to rebuild.  I stand ready to work with my colleagues in that effort,” he said in a statement.

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