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12 dead as Tornadoes strike in the US

28 April 2014, 11:39

Arkansas - A tornado system ripped through the central US and left at least 12 dead in a violent start to this year's storm season, officials said.

Matt DeCample, a spokesperson for Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, said 11 in his state were killed Sunday when a tornado carved through several Little Rock suburbs. A separate tornado from the same storm system killed one person in Oklahoma.

The large tornado outside Little Rock, Arkansas, stayed on the ground as it moved north-eastward for at least 48km.

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 said.

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.

In Arkansas, Pulaski County Sheriff's Lieutenant Carl Minden said three people were killed when a tornado destroyed a home west of Little Rock. Minden said several others were injured at the scene.

"I'm standing on the foundation of the house now. It's totally gone," Minden told The Associated Press by phone.

In Oklahoma, Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw, which has about 900 residents, was heavily damaged.

"Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department," Morgan said.

Authorities earlier had said two were killed in Quapaw. Sheriff's dispatcher Kelli Soechs declined to explain the discrepancy.

Six people were treated for tornado-related injuries at Baptist Regional Health Center, said hospital spokeswoman Kristie Wallace.

The Missouri Highway Patrol reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70. No one was injured.

- AP

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