Towns destroyed and dozens dead in US tornadoes

Residents and rescue workers went house to house Saturday in a desperate search for survivors after tornadoes ripped open the US heartland, killing 31 people and wiping out entire communities.

Even as stunned Americans grappled with the magnitude of the massive swath of destruction brought by Friday’s twisters, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued new tornado warnings Saturday for parts of Georgia and Florida, in the country’s southeast.

Trucks and trees were tossed aside like playthings as deadly funnel clouds ravaged parts of six states in the US Midwest and South.

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

At least 14 people were killed in Indiana, according to Governor Mitch Daniels, who stood amid the devastation in the town of Henryville early Saturday.

“We’re not unfamiliar with Mother Nature’s wrath out here in Indiana, but this is about as serious as I’ve seen it in my years in this job,” an emotional Daniels, wearing a camouflage jacket, told reporters.

“Lucky it wasn’t worse,” he said, adding that while early warning systems likely saved lives, it was a “heart-breaking” loss for families, and Indianans would come together to help neighbours cope.

Town wiped out
Officials in Clark County, Indiana were scrambling to deal with widespread damage after roads were blocked by fallen trees and debris, and power and phone lines were knocked out.

The hardest hit was Marysville, and for all practical purposes the small town has ceased to exist, officials said.

“That’s the information we have, that Marysville is no longer,” US Senator Dan Coats of Indiana said in an interview with CNN.

The high school in Henryville suffered “quite a bit of damage,” but luckily all the children were evacuated safely and only minor injuries — some cuts and scrapes — were reported, said sheriff department spokesperson Chuck Adams.

Indiana activated 250 members of its National Guard, who used Black Hawk helicopters to reach hard-hit regions, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, the department of public health confirmed 14 fatalities there, with a total of 13 tornadoes roaring across the state.

Twisters smashed homes like matchsticks in and around the city of West Liberty, and 40 counties in the state suffered damage. Some 22 000 people were without power in the state.

“It’s been a very difficult 24 hours in Kentucky,” Kerri Richardson, the governor’s communications director, told AFP.

Wide spread winds
Amateur video, aired on CNN, showed a gargantuan grey twister churning over West Liberty, as a woman loudly prayed “Oh God, take it away from us Lord!”

There were three deaths in the neighbouring state of Ohio, including a city councilwoman from the town of Moscow, an emergency management agency official said.

A second round of searches for survivors began at daybreak in the southwest of the state, where communities reported widespread devastation, the official said.

Alabama’s Madison county was also badly hit, with the weather service reporting “people trapped in rubble with injuries,” houses destroyed, trees ripped from the ground and power lines down.

The latest wave of storms comes after a string of twisters killed 13 people earlier in the week.

The NWS had received 83 reports of tornadoes in eight states by Friday evening, bringing the week’s total to 133, though not all were confirmed.

More could be on their way as a “particularly dangerous” tornado watch continued into Saturday in four states in a massive storm that also carried golf-ball sized hail.

Ingredients for disaster
The latest outbreak of tornadoes comes as people were still picking through rubble left behind by the twisters which struck six states Tuesday and Wednesday.

The town of Harrisburg, Illinois was hardest hit Wednesday, ripped apart by a deadly twister that stayed on the ground for miles, killing six people and injuring more than 100.

Some 545 people were killed by tornadoes in 2011, the deadliest tornado season since 1936 and the third worst on record.

This year tornadoes have come a bit early with the mild winter creating the right conditions for cold fronts to slam into warmer air.

“We knew it was going to be bad,” said Angie Lese, a meteorologist with NWS. “All the ingredients came together for a significant outbreak.” — Sapa-AFP

Advertisting

Workers fight job-creation ‘mess’

Former Ekurhuleni workers argued in court that a programme promising to equip them with skills simply acted as a labour broker for the municipality

Court dissolves local municipality

Landmark judgment paves the way for South Africans to use legal system to hold councils responsible

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.