Thursday 18 December 2014

Tornadoes rip through south-central United States killing at least 17 people

* Neighbourhoods wiped out, houses ripped from foundations * First reported fatalities from tornado season * Arkansas communities of Vilonia, Mayflower worst hit

By Suzi Parker

Published 28/04/2014 | 06:34

Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 17 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods, authorities said as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors.

Winds ripped houses off their foundations and flipped cars on top of the rubble in the small town of Vilonia in central Arkansas' Faulkner county, one of the worst-hit communities, television pictures showed.

Arkansas authorities said at least 10 people had died in Faulkner and six more across the state - the first reported fatalities of this year's tornado season. Another person was killed in neighboring Oklahoma, said the sheriff's department.

Searchers were continuing to dig through rubble in Vilonia and a spokesman for the County Sheriff's office said there was a "mass casualty situation".

"An entire neighborhood of 50 or so homes has been destroyed. Many homes are completely gone except the foundation ... There is more devastation like this in other parts of Arkansas," state congressman Tim Griffin told Reuters.

Cable television's Weather Channel showed videotape of mangled, overturned cars, some with people still inside, lining miles of Interstate 40 near Mayflower, 22 miles (35 km) northwest of state capital Little Rock.

A damaged vehicle is seen after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials
A damaged vehicle is seen after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials
Debris is seen at a damaged business after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014.
A damaged vehicle is seen after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials
A wrecked sign is seen at a damaged business after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials
A damaged house is seen after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
Business owners look over damage after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
A damaged home is seen after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
An overturned vehicle is seen with debris after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
Travel trailers and motor homes are piled on top of each other at Mayflower RV in Mayflower, Ark., Sunday, April 27, 2014.A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning tornadoes. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Twisted trees and power lines remain in a residential block near Military Avenue following the tornado in Baxter Springs, Kan., Sunday, April 27, 2014. A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that carved through Little Rock's northern suburbs and another that hit Oklahoma and Kansas. (AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, Roger Nomer )
Residents survey the damage in a residential neighborhood struck by a tornado on Sunday evening, April 27, 2014. A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning a massive tornado that carved path of destruction through the northern Little Rock suburbs and another twister that hit in Oklahoma
A damaged vehicle is seen after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
A man looks at a damaged home after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
Business owners look over the damage after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors
This photo provided by James Bryant shows tornado damage, Sunday, April 27, 2014 in Mayflower, Ark. (AP Photo/Courtesy of James Bryant)
A officer talks to people at 15th and Military following Sunday's tornado in Baxter Springs, Kan., Sunday April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, Roger Nomer )
A K-9 rescue unit walks along Military Street in Baxter Springs, Kan., April 27, 2014, as they survey the damage from Sunday's tornado. (AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, Roger Nomer )
A storm chaser photographer looks at thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Erick, Oklahoma late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Storm chaser photographer Brad Mack checks out the radar on his laptop as thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Erick, Oklahoma late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A storm chaser photographer looks at thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Vinson, Oklahoma late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Huge lightning strikes hit the ground along a highway as thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Kamay, Texas late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A large TVS (tornadic vortex signature) thunderstorm supercell passes over storm chaser Brad Mack in Graham, Texas late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A large TVS (tornadic vortex signature) thunderstorm supercell passes over storm chaser Brad Mack in Graham, Texas late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Huge lightning strikes cross the skies as thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Archer City, Texas late April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Debris is seen at a damaged business after a tornado hit the town of Mayflower, Arkansas around 7:30 pm CST, late April 27, 2014. Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least 12 people in Arkansas and Oklahoma and wiping out entire neighborhoods of homes, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors

Motorists searched crushed vehicles for victims while others stood dazed on the road. Authorities closed the route.

A tornado hit the east side of Mayflower at around 7.30 pm, killing at least one person, tearing up trees and bringing down power lines, making it difficult for the emergency services to find stricken areas in the dark, officials there said.

"It's extremely hazardous here right now," said Will Elder, an alderman in the city. "The power lines are down, roads are blocked and they will have to proceed with caution."

The Arkansas National Guard was deployed to help out in the state.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said on its website 10 deaths had been reported in Faulkner, five in Pulaski county and one in White county.

At least one other person was killed in a tornado in the small town of Quapaw, in the northeast corner of neighboring Oklahoma, according to Ottawa County Sheriff's Department spokesman Derek Derwin.

That twister was spotted in the town 200 miles northeast of Oklahoma City at about 5:45 p.m., according to the weather service.

Media and the National Weather Service reported that two people were killed.

Overnight tornado watches and warnings were announced in several parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Reuters

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