Tornado damage in US 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Harrison McClary)
INDIANAPOLIS - The latest in a series of powerful tornadoes raked across a broad swath of the US Midwest and Southeast, killing at least 33 people in four states, authorities said on Saturday.
The fast-moving twisters on Friday splintered homes, damaged a prison and tossed around vehicles across the region, leaving 16 people dead in Kentucky, 14 in neighboring Indiana, two more in Ohio, and one in Alabama, officials said.
"We're not unfamiliar with Mother Nature's wrath out here in Indiana," Governor Mitch Daniels told CNN during a visit to the stricken southeast corner of the state on Saturday.
"But this is about as serious as we've seen in the years since I've been in this job," he said, standing against the backdrop of the hard hit town of Henryville.
Friday's storms came on top of deadly-late winter storms earlier in the week in the Midwest, and brought the death toll to 46.
Tony Williams, 46, owner of the Chelsea General Store in southern Indiana said four people died in the Chelsea area, including 4-year-old Davlin Terry Jackson and his great grandparents, Terry and Carol Jackson in their late 60s.
The boy and his mother, Amanda Jackson, were in a basement when the storm hit about 3 p.m. local time Friday. He was torn from her arms by the tornado. The mother survived, but her grandparents who were upstairs, both died.
"She was in the cellar with the boy when the tornado hit. It blew him right out of her hands," Williams said. "They found the bodies in the field outside," he added, referring to Davlin and his great grandparents.
Williams said 60 local school children took refuge in his store overnight. "The bus drivers did a great job. We had them in a back room with no windows. I lost some shingles but we're okay. The Red Cross and Fire department are here now and they are cleaning up."
In Salem, Indiana, about 60 miles (97 km) west of Chelsea, a 2-year-old girl was found alive in a field after a twister cut through the area, authorities said.
"When she was brought down here they didn't know who she was," said Brian Rublein, a spokesman for Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, where the girl was taken by helicopter.
"At last report she was in critical condition," Rublein said.
Aerial TV footage showed rescue workers in Indiana picking through a 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.
Major Chuck Adams of the sheriff's office in Indiana's Clark County said there was extensive damage to a school in Henryville but said: "All the children are out. No injuries to any of them, just minor scrapes and abrasions."
An Indiana official confirmed 14 deaths from the tornadoes on Friday, in four southeastern counties. A spokeswoman for Kentucky's governor reported a statewide death toll of 16, while Ohio officials said there were two deaths in a single county.
"There's a possibility we could have additional fatalities," in southwestern Ohio said Kathy Lehr, the director of public information in Clermont County.
The Ohio victims were a 54-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman who was a city council member in the town of Moscow, Lehr said. Many homes in the county were damaged, including some in which buildings were swept off their foundations.
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.
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