Chicago: Rescue workers searched for survivors on Saturday after more than six dozen tornadoes tore across the central United States, killing at least 27 people and wiping out whole communities.

Trucks and trees were tossed aside like candy on Friday as deadly funnel clouds descended on five states.

The images were surreal: a school bus smashed through a brick home, trucks thrown into lakes, stately brick homes reduced to rubble and wooden ones smashed into kindling, mobile homes flipped like tin cans.

The death toll in Indiana reached 13 last night, officials said.

"Early reports indicate the heaviest damage is concentrated in southeastern Indiana including substantial damage in Henryville in Clark County, Marysville in Clark County, and Pekin and New Pekin in Washington County," the state Joint Information Center said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Department of Public Health has confirmed a total of 12 fatalities.

A total of 13 tornadoes passed through that state on Friday, according to the Kentucky Emergency Management agency.

Two more deaths were reported by authorities in the neighbouring state of Ohio.

Fire stations, schools and jails were among the buildings torn apart and a rescue squad car in Kentucky was flipped over and trapped under live power lines.

"I am constantly amazed by both the unpredictability and the ferocity of what Mother Nature can unleash when she chooses to," Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said.