Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Deadly tornado strikes Oklahoma

Resident Karen Arms in the remains of her home in Edmond, Oklahoma
Residents have returned to homes totally destroyed

At least eight people have been killed by a tornado which tore into a town in the US state of Oklahoma.

The tornado swept through a swathe of the town of Lone Grove on Tuesday evening, reports said. Local reports said up to 15 people may have died.

The tornado, one of at least three in the area, also left 14 people injured, a spokeswoman for the state emergency management department said.

Several survivors were found in homes flattened by the tornado.

'Twisted metal'

A number of buildings in Lone Grove, which has a population of around 4,600, were destroyed by the tornado.

Thousands of people were said to be without power in Oklahoma and neighbouring Texas following the seasonally unusual twisters, which demolished trailer homes and snapped trees and power lines.

Nightfall and the dangers posed by the destruction on the ground forced the search for survivors to be suspended overnight in Lone Grove, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Oklahoma City.

A tornado tears through central Oklahoma

But rescue workers and equipment have been deployed there and the search for survivors resumed at first light on Wednesday.

"There's nothing left ... twisted metal, cars turned upside down, cars in trees," Oklahoma highway patrol trooper and Lone Grove resident Bryant Harris told the Tulsa World newspaper.

One woman was nearly sucked through the roof of a house while sheltering in a cupboard with seven other people, who managed to hold on to her.

"My daughter was standing here trying to hold the door when all of a sudden she started rising," her mother Laura Hartman told News 9 television crew, AFP reported.

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry said: "We will do everything we can to get Oklahomans the assistance they need."

One deputy sheriff told The Oklahoman newspaper late on Tuesday that he believed there may have been more fatalities.

"I'm scared to death to see what daylight brings," he told the paper.

Ken Grace, sheriff for Carter County, which includes Lone Grove, told Reuters news agency there could be as many as 30 people missing.

More warnings

Television reports showed buildings reduced to rubble, roofs ripped from homes and cars smashed into each other.

Lone Grove resident Joe Hornback told the Associated Press news agency that 30 people from his street had sought shelter from the storm in a small cellar.

There was calm before the tornado hit, he told the AP. "Then you just heard the wind blow, just like you turned the light switch on."

Damage was also reported elsewhere in the state, including Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Hail pours out of guttering during a storm which later produced a violent tornado on Tuesday afternoon in Edmond, Oklahoma
The tornado storms also produced large hail stones

The National Weather Service has issued tornado watches for the area to the east of Oklahoma.

The state is no stranger to tornados, but it is unusal for them to take palce so early in the year.

Their appearance has been blamed on usually warm, wet weather. Most usually take place in spring and summer.

"It's February, but we're going to treat it like May," said Mike Foster, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's office in Norman, Oklahoma, local media reported.

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