A five-year-old child was one of two people killed and at least 19 others were injured when a powerful storm with tornadoes ripped through north-east Nebraska, hospital and emergency officials said.

More than half of the tiny town of Pilger was destroyed after the National Weather Service said dual twisters touched down within roughly a mile of each other.

Emergency crews and residents spent the evening sorting through demolished homes and businesses in the community of about 350 people, roughly 100 miles north-west of Omaha.

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"More than half of the town is gone - absolutely gone," said Stanton County Commissioner Jerry Weatherholt.

"The co-op is gone, the grain bins are gone, and it looks like almost every house in town has some damage. It's a complete mess," he added.

Victims were taken to three regional hospitals, and at least one died from unspecified injuries, hospital officials said.

Stanton County Sheriff's Office confirmed a five-year-old child and a motorist were killed.

County sheriff Mike Unger said several people near Main Street in Pilger were critically injured, including the child who later died.

An estimated 50 per cent to 75 per cent of Pilger was heavily damaged or destroyed in the storm.

"The local school is likely beyond repair, said Sheriff Unger.

"It's total devastation," he added.

Hospital officials later said that some patients who were earlier described as being in a critical condition, had been released after treatment.