16 Apr 2012

Five dead as tornadoes sweep through US Plains

8:59 am on 16 April 2012

Dozens of tornadoes have torn through the midwest of the United States, killing at least five people, leaving thousands without power and damaging homes and buildings.

The high winds and of tornadoes struck mostly rural areas in what is often called "Tornado Alley" in the US Central and Southern Plains.

A twister struck the northwest Oklahoma city of Woodward, where storm sirens failed to sound after lightning apparently disabled its warning system.

Two children died at a mobile home park in Woodward, while two adults were killed in a small community just outside the city limits. Details of the fifth death were not immediately known.

Scores of homes and a dozen businesses had been destroyed.

In the tiny Iowa settlement of Thurman, an estimated 75 - 90% of the town's buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm. Only minor injuries were reported.

The National Storm Prediction Centre had an unofficial count of 98 tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma, starting on Saturday morning and going until early Sunday.

In Kansas, no deaths or serious injuries were reported but about 11,000 people were reported without power.

The storm damaged a hangar at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita and destroyed several homes around the area, authorities said. The storm missed downtown Wichita and heavily populated neighborhoods.

The US tornado season started early this year, with twisters already blamed for 62 deaths in 2012 in the Midwest and South.

Last year was the deadliest tornado year in almost a century, when some 550 people died.