US tornado death toll increases

 

Powerful tornadoes that passed across a wide area of the US midwest and south yesterday killed at least 33 people in four states and bringing the death toll to 46 from a week of deadly late-winter storms.

The storms splintered homes, damaged a prison and tossed around vehicles across the region, leaving at least 16 people dead in southern Indiana, another 14 in neighbouring Kentucky, two more in Ohio and one in Alabama, officials said. In all, the latest line of storms battered a band of states from Ohio and Indiana on southward to Alabama.

"We are no match for Mother Nature at her worst," Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said in a statement, adding that he would visit the stricken southeast corner of the state today.

Another possible storm-related death occurred in Henryville, Indiana, where television images showed homes blown apart.

Video taken from the air showed rescue workers in Indiana picking through one splintered house, residents sifting through the ruins of a home, and a school bus thrown into a building. Several warehouse-like structures had their roofs ripped off.

Storm warnings were issued throughout the day from the midwest to the southeast, and schools and businesses were closed ahead of the storms after a series of tornadoes earlier in the week killed 13 people in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee.

"We may not be done yet," said John Hart, a meteorologist at the Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

As night fell and temperatures cooled, the line of storms appeared to weaken somewhat as they travelled eastward, but the National Weather Service warned of another possible outbreak of tornadic weather today. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes were likely over an area stretching from Indiana and Ohio into Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

This week's violent storms raised fears that 2012 will be another bad year for tornadoes after 550 deaths in the United States were blamed on twisters last year, the deadliest year in nearly a century, according to the Weather Service.

The highest death tolls were from an April outbreak in Alabama and Mississippi that claimed 364 lives, and from a May tornado in Joplin, Missouri, that killed 161 people.

Reuters