Death toll from Kansas tornado climbs to 10
One survivor is found amid wreckage as search continues in Kansas town flattened by storm
From the Associated Press
Newsday (New York)
Copyright 2007 Newsday, Inc.
GREENSBURG, Kan. — Rescue teams searching the rubble that was once Greensburg found two more victims and a survivor, raising the death toll from a powerful tornado that largely obliterated the small town to at least 10, authorities said yesterday.
The massive tornado, an enhanced F-5 with wind estimated at 205 mph, was part of a weekend of violent storms that tore across the Plains and were also blamed for two other deaths in Kansas.
Little remained standing in Greensburg yesterday but the grain elevator as the town's 1,500 residents were allowed back in to check their property. The tornado demolished every business on the main street. Churches lost their steeples, trees were stripped of their branches, and neighborhoods were flattened. Officials estimate as much as 95 percent of the town was destroyed.
One of the latest victims was found under debris in the middle of town, city administrator Steve Hewitt said. The other body was pulled from a nearby lake.
Rescue teams also found a survivor as they searched the wreckage on Sunday, two days after the tornado hit, providing hope for other discoveries, said Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Ron Knoefel. He did not release details on the survivor's identity or condition, and authorities had not identified any of the victims.
There remained plenty of caution about what the rubble might reveal in the coming days. Since the tornado hit Friday night, emergency responders have had little indication of how many people may be safely staying with friends or relatives, rather than in shelters. The sheer amount of wreckage made the search effort that much harder.
"We've been over the town twice now - all of our partners around the state, the experts from cities with technical search-and-rescue," Maj. Gen. Todd Bunting, the state's adjutant general, told CNN yesterday morning. "Some of this rubble is 20, 30 feet deep."
Some of that search effort was stalled at midday when a tank holding anhydrous ammonia - a toxic chemical used as farm fertilizer - leaked, prompting officials to evacuate the northeast part of the town.
The weekend storms continued into yesterday across parts of the Plains.
High water in Topeka forced hundreds of people out of their homes early yesterday, closed schools and blocked streets and highways around the state.
In southwest Iowa, nearly 1,600 residents of Red Oak and all of tiny Coburg were urged to evacuate yesterday as the East Nishnabotna River and a creek rose out of their banks.