Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Dozens killed by tornadoes
A family survey the ruins of their home
A series of tornadoes have ripped through the states of Oklahoma and Kansas in the midwest of the United States killing at least 45 people and injuring hundreds more.
Health officials said 40 people were killed in Oklahoma alone in Monday's storms, which local people described as the worst in living memory.
Some reports say as many as 48 separate tornadoes were recorded across the region.
Local TV reports showed pictures of dark grey funnels tearing through towns and fields, whipping up cars and clouds of debris with bright flashes as the wind snapped power lines and smashed electricity sub-stations.
Hailstones the size of golfballs were reported in the north of Oklahoma state.
The Governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, has declared a state of emergency, saying whole communities had disappeared "after what looked as though a battle had taken place".
Officials there estimate that as many as 1,000 homes may have been destroyed, as winds tossed mobile homes in the air and flattened houses.
"I watched from my house when the tornado crossed Oklahoma City; it was a monster," said Dave Imy, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Centre in nearby Norman.
Also hit hard was Wichita in Kansas, about 160 miles (250 km) north of Oklahoma City, with at least six people reported dead. Several mobile homes in south Wichita were blown into a lake and many other homes were damaged.
Mike Hammer, spokesman for the Oklahoma County Emergency Management Office, said it was too early to say how high the death toll would go.
"There are so many communities hit so badly, it's anybody's guess as to how high the death toll will be," he said.
"We're getting hammered with traumas right now," said an official at Wichita's Via Christi St. Francis hospital.
As hundreds of homes were flattened, Oklahoma Governor, Frank Keating, mobilised the National Guard to comb the debris and combat a spate of gas fires.
"The magnitude of this is just unprecedented," he said. "Hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and literally hundreds and hundreds of homes destroyed."
"It is just the perfect type of atmosphere, very unstable and with wind shear, to create supercells," he said.
Officials said they expected to find more casualties when daybreak made searching easier.
"We're going door to door to determine who's injured and who's not," said Wichita Fire Department chief Bob Thompson. "We know about five or six deaths, and we'll probably find more as the sun rises."