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Rescuers search for survivors of Indiana tornado

November 7, 2005

By John Gress

EVANSVILLE, Indiana (Reuters) – Rescue workers tore at the
shredded remains of an Indiana mobile home park on Monday,
looking for possible survivors of a tornado that killed at
least 22 people in the state but fearing they might find more
dead.

Search efforts were centered on the Eastbrook mobile home
park in Evansville where Sunday’s middle-of-the-night tornado
dealt the deadliest damage, killing victims ranging from
children aged two, five and six to a 78-year-old man.

Vanderburgh County officials said 17 people were known dead
in the mobile home community, revising the toll down by one
from an earlier count they had released on Sunday. Five deaths
were confirmed in neighboring Warrick County.

More than 200 were injured in the southwest Indiana region,
some of them critically.

Survivors told the same story — of being awakened by
roaring winds, many not hearing warning sirens that sounded not
long before, and trying to seek hiding places as their homes
exploded around them. One woman told ABC-TV on Monday her
mobile home was lifted twisting through the air like the
fictional Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz, landing
three our four streets away.

U.S. President George W. Bush, visiting Panama, said he had
called Indiana Gov. Mitchell Daniels and asked him if more
federal action was needed.

“He felt like the response that we had given was
appropriate at the time. And many Americans are now asking
God’s blessings on those who suffered through this natural
disaster,” Bush told reporters.

A local emergency board member, quoted by the Evansville
Courier & Press on Monday, said officials five years ago looked
into a system that would automatically ring telephones in
neighborhoods known to be in the path of a tornado but rejected
it because it cost several million dollars.

After Sunday’s storm, he said, that decision might have to
be reconsidered.

MOBILE HOMES VULNERABLE

But mobile homes — manufactured units without basements
that are typically arrayed in clusters — are especially
vulnerable to tornadoes and even an added layer of warning may
not have saved lives in Sunday’s storm.

It was the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak of 2005, coming
at a time of year when such storms are not very common. Through
September 2005 there had been only 10 tornado deaths — eight
of them among people living in mobile homes.

In any given year there are about 70 U.S. tornado
fatalities.

About a fourth of the mobile home park suffered the worst
damage, leaving piles of vehicles, twisted metal and particle
board and ripped blankets of insulation.

The Evansville newspaper quoted local insurance adjusters
as saying property damage from the storm, based on a cursory
look, could run as high as $100 million.

About 130 Indiana National Guard troops were called in to
assist in recovery efforts and to help provide security and
clean up debris.

The storm struck at about 2 a.m. (0800 GMT), with little
notice, touching down in northern Kentucky, then skipping
across the Ohio River into southern Indiana. Alarm sirens
sounded only about 10 minutes before the twister hit.

Like many others, Melissa Walls and her family were
sleeping in their bedrooms when the tornado took the roof off
their single-story brick house in Newburgh.

“I heard a noise and I thought it was hail so I ran into my
son’s room. He’s 14 months. … He had a cut on his head and
his crib was full of bricks and debris,” said Walls. “I looked
up and my roof was gone.”

The tornado left a path of destruction about 20 miles (32
km) long and three-quarters of a mile wide from northern
Kentucky across southern Indiana, officials said.


Source: reuters



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