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Tornadoes Sweep Through Central US - 2003-05-05

Officials in the central United States say at least 30 people were killed when dozens of tornadoes swept through the area late Sunday. Tornadoes roared through the states of Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas devastating areas where they touched down.

In addition to the dead, dozens of people where injured and left homeless by heavy winds, rain, and hail.

"I looked out my kitchen window and I saw the cloud drop into a tornado and I headed for the basement and crawled under my dirty laundry with my boy," said Sue Kelly of Kansas City, Kansas, who witnessed one of the tornadoes forming outside her home.

Rescue workers accompanied by dogs are climbing through the rubble of a National Guard armory in Pierce City, Missouri where people had fled the tornadoes to seek shelter.

The roof of the armory collapsed during the storm.

Mike Spencer, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Pierce City, told VOA News Now the town square was hit hard and homes were flattened.

"Many of these were historic buildings and just collapsed," said Mr. Spencer. "I mean not just windows shattered, or, you know, mud on the walls. The ceilings have collapsed. The brick walls have collapsed. On some buildings I am looking at there are only a couple of boards that are even left, sticking straight up."

Officials say one funnel cloud measured 450 meters across as it moved through eastern Kansas and western Missouri, blowing roofs off homes and uprooting large trees.

Witnesses reported another tornado stayed on the ground for about half an hour.

The government's National Storm Prediction Center said it received more than 80 sightings of tornadoes, although some were probably duplicates.

Officials say live television pictures of the approaching storms may have helped save lives, alerting residents to head for basements or other shelters.

The twisters are part of a large storm system that hit the Midwest and parts of the South, spawning tornadoes in South Dakota and Nebraska as well.

Forecasters say the storm system is moving eastward and more severe weather can be expected.