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Extreme weather claims dozens of lives in US

Published 28/12/2015

Flooding has hit parts of the south and mid-west of the US as extreme weather led to dozens of deaths
Flooding has hit parts of the south and mid-west of the US as extreme weather led to dozens of deaths

At least 24 people have been killed and and dozens were injured after tornadoes hit Texas and flooding swept through the Midwest.

The latest events follow several days of extreme weather across the US, ranging from heavy snow in New Mexico, west Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, to flooding in parts of the Plains and Midwest.

Days of extreme weather have led to 43 deaths overall - the 11 killed in Texas, plus five in Illinois, eight in Missouri and 19 in the south-east.

Dallas officials estimated as many as 1,450 homes had been damaged or destroyed in storms that the National Weather Service said produced nine tornadoes.

"This is a huge impact on our community, and we're all suffering," Garland Police Lt Pedro Barineau said. The north-east Dallas suburb has seen eight deaths, 15 injuries and about 600 properties damaged.

The weather service said an EF-4 tornado - which is the second-most powerful with winds up to more than 200 miles per hour - hit the community late on Saturday.

It struck near the intersection of Interstate 30 and George Bush Turnpike, which is a major route in the region.

At least three people who died were found in vehicles, said Lt Barineau, who also noted that some cars appeared to have been thrown from the road.

The destruction in Garland was so overwhelming that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared the city a disaster within mere minutes of viewing the effects firsthand.

Three other people died in Collin County, north-east of Dallas, according to sheriff's deputy Chris Havey, although the circumstances were not immediately clear.

Texas governor Greg Abbott made disaster declarations on Sunday for four counties - Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Ellis - and warned that the number of victims could rise.

On the other side of the state, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) in Amarillo strongly discouraged travel throughout the entire Texas Panhandle - a 26-county area covering nearly 26,000 square miles - because snow had made the roads impassable.

Interstate 40, the main east-west highway across the Panhandle, was almost completely shut down. DPS said only a small section of the highway in Amarillo remained open.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency as there were blizzard conditions and an ice storm warning out west and flood warnings in the east, where one community had received 9in of rain. The state Department of Emergency Management said eight storm-related injuries were reported. About 60,000 homes and businesses were without power.

Six people died overnight when two separate vehicles drove into flooded roadways in south-central Missouri, Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said. Among them were four international soldiers based at Fort Leonard Wood.

Greene County authorities said two deaths there were associated with the flooding.

In southern Illinois, authorities said three adults and two children drowned Saturday evening when the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek.

The death toll in the south-east linked to severe weather rose to 19 on Sunday when Alabama authorities found the body of a 22-year-old man whose vehicle was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge. A five-year-old's body related to the same incident was found on Saturday.

Ten people have died in Mississippi, and six died in Tennessee, while one person was killed in Arkansas.

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