Tornado toll hits 17 dead
MAYFLOWER, Ark.—A tornado system ripped through the central and southern United States yesterday, leaving at least 17 dead in a violent start to this year’s storm season, officials said.
An Arkansas state agency reported that 16 deaths have been confirmed in that state.
The large tornado outside Little Rock, Ark. stayed on the ground as it moved northeast for at least 50 km.
Emergency workers and volunteers went door-to-door to look for victims.
Law enforcement officers checked the damaged and toppled 18-wheelers, cars, and trucks on a stretch of Interstate 40—a major thoroughfare in and out of the state’s capital.
“It turned pitch black,” said Mark Ausbrooks, who was at his parents’ home when the storm arrived.
“I ran and got pillows to put over our heads and . . . all hell broke loose.
“My parents’ home, it’s gone completely,” he added.
Tornadoes also touched down in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri ,and Kansas, where dozens of homes in Baxter Springs were destroyed.
Twenty-five people were injured and one person died, but it wasn’t clear if the death was related to the storm, said Kari West, a spokeswoman for the Southeast Kansas Incident Management Team.
Forecasters had warned for days that violent weather would strike over the weekend.
Meanwhile, U.S. president Barack Obama is sending his deepest condolences to those affected by the deadly tornado that ripped through Arkansas and has directed federal resources to the area.
The White House said Obama is sending Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, to Arkansas “to ensure the appropriate federal resources are being brought to bear to support the state and local efforts.”
The president also praised the heroic efforts of first responders and neighbours.