Search for missing after twisters hit Texas, Arkansas

2015-05-11 21:22

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Van - Emergency responders on Monday searched through wreckage in parts of the states of Texas and Arkansas after a line of tornadoes battered several small communities, killing at least five people, including a young couple whose daughter survived.

Eight people were still missing in a rural East Texas town, raising the possibility that the number of dead could climb.

The couple in their late 20s or early 30s died when a twister hit their mobile home late Sunday in the Arkansas town of Nashville, Howard County Coroner John Gray said.

Their daughter was 1 or 2 years old. He did not release the parents' names.

Once the word spreads, he added, the deaths will be a blow to the community.

"That's what it's like in a small town," Gray said. "You either know them or you know somebody who knows them."

In neighbouring Texas, a likely tornado pummelled the small town of Van, damaging about 30% of the community, according to Chuck Allen, fire marshal and emergency management coordinator for Van Zandt County.

Authorities confirmed at least two deaths as they surveyed the damage. Eight people were still unaccounted for in Van, population 2 600, about 100km southeast of Dallas.

Rescuers went door to door following the storms. Damage appeared to be widespread, with trees uprooted and numerous homes and buildings flattened or ripped apart.

About 50 people spent the night at an American Red Cross shelter at a church.

Firefighters in Corsicana, 60 miles southwest of Van, recovered the body of a motorist early Monday after weekend storms dumped 11 inches of rain.

Preliminary reports indicate 20 to 25 tornadoes formed Sunday in South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas, according to meteorologist Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Centre in Norman, Oklahoma.

The storm system was expected to slowly move east, he said, with a low possibility for tornadoes in lower Michigan on Monday. Thunderstorms were forecast from Texas to the Great Lakes region.

"This is certainly not an atypical system for spring where you've got the remnants of winter but the onset of summer," Carbin said.

The National Weather Service believes at least one tornado hit Van on Sunday night, senior meteorologist Eric Martello said. Weather service crews were surveying the area Monday.

Floods resulting from the same storm system that rolled across North Texas caused a huge sinkhole to open up in Granbury, some 65km southwest of Fort Worth.

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