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Tornado death toll rises to seven

Residents spent New Year's Day sifting through the wreckage wrought by tornadoes that touched down in several states in the final hours of 2010, killing seven people in two states and injuring dozens of others.

Six of the victims, three in Missouri and three in Arkansas, died on Friday as tornadoes fuelled by unusually warm air hit the southern and midwestern US.

A seventh victim who was injured on Friday near the Missouri town of Rolla has died in hospital in Columbia, said Bruce Southard, the chief of the Rolla Rural Fire Department.

The woman, who has not been named, was entertaining a friend, Alice Cox, 69, of Belle, Mo., in her trailer when the twister hit.

Southard said nothing was left of the trailer except for the frame and that the storm scattered debris 40 to 50 yards from where it had sat. The woman were found under a pile of debris, Southard said.

"It's like you set a bomb off in it," Southard said. "It just annihilated it."

At a nearby farm, 21-year-old Megan Ross and her 64-year-old grandmother Loretta Anderson died when a tornado hit where their family lived among three mobile homes and two frame houses, Dent County Emergency Management Coordinator Brad Nash said.

The National Weather Service determined the home was hit by a weak tornado that was 50 yards wide and travelled less than a mile.

In the northwestern Arkansas hamlet of Cincinnati, Gerald Wilson, 88, and his wife, Mamie, 78, died in their home and Dick Murray, 78, died after being caught by the storm while milking cows, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said.

Governor Jay Nixon spent New Year's Day touring damage from the storm that also caused damage in near St. Louis.

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