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At least seven killed by tornadoes in south-central U.S.

Source: Reuters - Mon, 28 Apr 2014 04:24 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Updates death toll, 60 to 70 homes destroyed in Baxter Springs, Kansas)

By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 27 (Reuters) - Tornadoes ripped through the south-central United States on Sunday, killing at least seven people in Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to officials, as rescue workers searched in darkness for survivors.

Two people were killed in Vilonia, a small town in central Arkansas of some 3,800 people, and rescuers were digging the rubble of ruined buildings looking for more victims.

A spokesman for the Faulkner County Sheriff's office had said there was a "mass casualty situation", and the number of injured was reported to be numerous.

A person also died in a tornado that tore through the nearby town of Mayflower, 22 miles (35 km) northwest of Little Rock, at about 7:30 p.m., officials said.

About 45 homes were destroyed and a lumberyard was damaged, said Will Elder, an alderman in the city of 2,300 people. He said at least one person was injured.

The tornado passed through the east side of town, tearing up trees and bringing down powerlines, making it difficult for the emergency services to find stricken areas in the the darkness.

"It's extremely hazardous here right now," said Elder. "The power lines are down, roads are blocked and they will have to proceed with caution."

Three people were also killed in western Pulaski County, according to the sheriff's department.

Meanwhile at least one person was killed in a tornado in a small Oklahoma town in the northeast corner of the state, according to Ottawa County Sheriff's Department spokesman Derek Derwin. Media and the National Weather Service reported that two people were killed.

That twister was spotted in Quapaw, 200 miles (322 km) northeast of Oklahoma City at about 5:45 p.m., according to the weather service. An Ottawa County, Oklahoma, police dispatcher said a search and rescue effort was underway in Quapaw, but could not confirm reports of fatalities. (Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Writing by Dan Whitcomb and Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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