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Tornado kills nine, destroys homes in southern US

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 24, 2010
Tornadoes tore through the southern US state of Mississippi Saturday, killing at least nine people, injuring nearly two dozen and destroying homes, officials said.

The severe spring storms and tornadoes killed five people in Choctaw County, three in Yazoo County and another in Holmes County as they moved northeastward, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent told AFP.

Two of the Choctaw victims were children and the toll was expected to mount as rescuers cleared the debris.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency in 17 counties devastated by the storms and twisters, and called on the National Guard to help local officials in their emergency response.

American Red Cross workers have also been dispatched to areas affected by the severe weather.

"The effects of these storms have left many Mississippians with destroyed businesses and without homes," Barbour said in a statement.

Severe weather unleashed tornadoes that damaged buildings and downed trees and power lines, while the US National Weather Service warned that strong tornadoes were developing in neighboring states.

Four victims were flown by helicopter from hard-hit Yazoo City to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, while the American Medical Response service transported 17 others by ambulance to area hospitals, said AMR spokesman Jim Pollard.

The tornado that blasted through Yazoo City was nearly a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds whizzing at about 150 miles (241 km) per hour, according to meteorologists.

"It reminds me of (Hurricane) Katrina," a teary-eyed Barbour told local reporters of the damage in Yazoo City, where he lives.

Rescuers were struggling to get into Yazoo because of the vast amount of destruction in this city in a hilly area on the edge of the Mississippi Delta, explained Barbour's spokesman Dan Turner.

Helicopters were swooping overhead to assess the damage as rapid response teams searched for victims.

AMR operations in other parts of the state were dispatching ambulances to affected areas, while the emergency management agency in Rankin County sent a bus converted to a multi-patient ambulance.

"The patients had a range of injuries from minor to severe. In any tornado, any part of the body is vulnerable or susceptible to a wide variety of injuries," Pollard said, noting that other "walking wounded" patients were treated on site.

"We are still trying to account for all the residents impacted by the storm," Rent told CNN. "This was a very long-track storm, leaving in its wake really just horrible damages."

Turner said the storm destroyed about 30 homes in Warren County alone.

The governor was in Yazoo City, his home town, when the tornado struck.

Barbour "was going through some of the damaged areas and talking to some of the people who suffered the damage," said Turner, noting that some building were "completely leveled; they are no longer there."

"We're still looking at the possibility of more damage," he warned. "We're still in the early stages."

A local church was leveled. A man painting in the church at the time dived under the altar and emerged with only a few scratches, WAPT television reported.

The storms cut through a large swath of the country, with areas in Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri were placed under tornado watches and warnings as severe thunderstorms swept over the region.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center "is forecasting the development of a few strong, long-track tornadoes over parts of the mid-south, central Gulf Coast states and Tennessee Valley this afternoon and evening," it said in an outlook statement.

"This is a particularly dangerous situation."

It forecast that strong storms would continue to strengthen as they moved toward the northeast, possibly unleashing severe thunderstorms later Saturday and early Sunday, including "strong and long-lived" tornadoes producing "extensive damaging winds," large hail and severe thunderstorms.

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Lightning kills six in Cambodia
Phnom Penh (AFP) April 21, 2010
Six people have been killed by lightning during a heavy storm in Cambodia, police said Wednesday. The victims, all aged between 15 and 60, were struck on Monday evening during a rainstorm in the western province of Pursat, provincial police chief Sarun Chanthy told AFP by telephone. "This is a natural danger and we feel regret about it," he said. Three people were hit while they were ... read more

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