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The tornado destroyed 95 per cent of Greensburg, Kan., according to city officials. ((Orlin Wagner/Associated Press))

At least nine people are deadafter several tornadoes tore through Kansas, officials said Saturday.

Worst hit was the town of Greensburg, about180 kilometres west of Wichita, where up to eight people died and most of the community of 1,400 people was obliterated.

The twister cut a path more than two kilometres wide, National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Ruthi estimated.

City administrator Steve Hewitt said 95 per cent of thetownwas gone.

Law enforcement officials suspended the search for survivors early Saturday evening.

The tornado hit around 9:45 p.m. Friday, wreckingjust about everything in its path. In thedowntown core, only the courthousewasleft standing, with minor damage. It was turned into a command centre forrecovery efforts.

Emergency crews rescued about 30 people trapped in the rubble of the partially collapsedKiowa County Memorial Hospital.

National Guard soldiers were sent in to provide security while the search for survivors continued.

The dead includeeight in Kiowa County, where Greensburg is located, and one in a nearby county. All but 14 of the dozens of others hurt had been treated and released by early Saturday evening.

Storm chaser Allan Detrich said he believes the tornado had winds of more than 190 km/h.

He told CBC Newsworld debris was flyinghorizontally in front of the vehicle he was riding in.

"We were afraid the van would flip over. Wewere almost too close to the tornado. We were on the edge of it," he said.

With files from the Associated Press