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Mother and child among 5 killed in Oklahoma tornadoes

01 june 2013, 17:28
0
Tornadoes killed at least five people and wreaked massive damage late Friday in Oklahoma near the battered city of Moore, still recovering from a monster twister less than two weeks ago, AFP reports.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office confirmed the death toll, but said it had no further details on the victims.

But Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph told NBC television affiliate KFOR a mother and her baby were killed as they traveled in their car on Interstate 40 near Oklahoma City.

Several people were also injured after a number of crashes and overturned vehicles, including semi-trailers and trailers, she added. One main thoroughfare, Interstate 40, was shut down temporarily, the highway patrol announced online.

"It is a heartbreaking situation," Randolph said.

Weather forecasters lifted an emergency for parts of the tornado-prone midwestern state, though flash flood warnings, severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches remained in place.

National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma urged people to stay off the roads.

It forecast more severe weather Saturday, with the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys set to receive the bulk of the storms.

Reports said five twisters had struck the area around Oklahoma City, with winds of up to 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour, accompanied by very large hail.

Flash floods also hit the area, the Tulsa World newspaper said.

One large tornado touched down west of Oklahoma City, the state's biggest city, news reports said.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said earlier she was "heartsick" that Moore, struck by a powerful tornado on May 20, could be hit once again.

"I'm very concerned right now," Fallin told CNN.

"I'm here across from the capitol and it is hailing and blowing and raining extremely hard. Our tornado sirens have gone off several times."

KFOR television, meanwhile, reported extensive damage around the cities of El Reno and Yukon. More than 170,000 people were said to have lost power in the Oklahoma City metro area.

Officials for Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport said on Twitter that passengers had been evacuated to an underground tunnel and that flights in and out had been suspended.

The Moore tornado affected a total of 33,000 people, with winds above 200 miles per hour.

With an average of 1,200 tornadoes per year, the United States is the most hurricane-prone country in the world. They are particularly prominent in the Great Plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as in Florida.

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