WASHINGTON D.C.: Powerful torna–does killed at least 18 people as they flipped cars, ripped up homes and uprooted trees across south-central United States, emergency officials reported on Monday.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said that 15 people were killed when tornadoes touched down on Sunday, while an official with the Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency said there were at least two tornado victims in the state.
“It’s chaos right now,” the mayor of the Arkansas town of Velonia, James Firestone, told CNN late on Sunday as emergency crews used search–lights to comb through the debris overnight in some of the hardest-hit areas.
The central part of the town of 4,000 “seems like it’s completely leveled. There’s a few buildings partially standing, gas lines spewing. Fire lines down. We’ve had some casualties.”
The twisters tore through the region on Sunday and overnight into Monday, and are forecast to threaten much of the region through Tuesday.
Homes reduced to rubble
Firestone said that police and firefighters from nearby cities as well as National Guard troops were heading to Velonia.
Twisters also devastated large sections of the town of Mayflower, population 2,300, just northwest of the Arkansas state capital Little Rock.
Pictures of tornado damage posted by Arkansas TV station THV 11 showed smashed cars, homes ripped in half, and whole residential blocks reduced to rubble.
Officials said that parts of Interstate 40, a major east-west highway across the United States, was closed due to debris and overturned vehicles in the Mayflower area.
Two regional utility com–panies, Entergy and First Electric Cooperative, said that more than 15,000 customers were in the dark.