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Tornadoes strike Oklahoma,suburbs again,kill at least nine

Victims include two children,over 70 injured; thunderstorms cause flash floods

Written by Reuters | Oklahoma City |
June 2, 2013 12:50:46 am

At least nine people were killed in tornadoes that swept through central Oklahoma on Friday,part of a storm system that caused widespread flooding in Oklahoma City and its suburbs,the state’s chief medical examiner said on Saturday.

The dead included two children and seven adults,said Amy Elliott,a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office. The death toll earlier had been reported as five.

The tornadoes struck just 11 days after a twister ranked as EF5,the most powerful ranking,tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore and killed 24 people.

The latest storms dumped up to 8 inches (20 cm) of rain on the Oklahoma City area,causing flash flooding that submerged parts of the sprawling metropolitan area that is home to more than 1.3 million people.

Nearly two dozen people were rescued from areas cut off by rising water,the National Weather Service said.

More than 70 people were treated for storm-related injuries,Oklahoma hospital officials said.

Severe storms also hit neighbouring Missouri,where Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Friday,and were forecast to move into Illinois on Saturday.

The devastation was caused by large,long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells,which produce the strongest tornadoes,along with large hail.

Forecasters believe at least five tornadoes touched down in central Oklahoma,which survey teams were trying to verify,meteorologist Rick Smith said from the National Weather Service office in Norman,Oklahoma. “Some of these tornadoes were wrapped in rain and they were difficult to see,” Smith said.

The tornadoes hit during the Friday evening rush hour and many of those hurt or killed were on the roadways.

Among the dead were a woman and her baby who were travelling on Interstate 40,just west of Oklahoma City,when their vehicle was picked up by the storm and they were sucked out of it,said Betsy Randolph,spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

One tornado rampaged down the interstate,tipping over trucks and hurling hay bales,a witness said. Television images showed downed power lines,tossed cars and motorists stranded in knee-deep flood water.

“For reasons not clear to me,more people took to the roads,more than we expected. Everyone acted differently in this storm,and as a result,it created an extremely dangerous situation,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

Power utilities Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Ameren said 200,000 customers were without power in Oklahoma,Missouri and Illinois.

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