18 Killed As Tornado Hit US

A tornado system that ripped through the central US has left at least 18 people dead, officials say.

Less than two hours before the tornado hit Arkansas, a twister hit the small town of Quapawa in Oklahoma, killing at least one person.

Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Dan Morgan said Quapaw, which has a population of about 900, was badly damaged by the tornado.

“Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department,” he said.

The Arkansas tornado touched down west of Little Rock and crossed the Arkansas River northwest of the city on Sunday evening (local time).

“It’s chaos right now,” the mayor of the Arkansas town of Vilonia, James Firestone, told CNN late on Sunday emergency crews used searchlights to comb through the debris in some of the hardest-hit areas.

The central part of the town of 4000 “seems like it’s completely levelled. There’s a few buildings partially standing, gas lines spewing. Fire lines down. We’ve had some casualties.”

Speaking from Manila, US President Barack Obama, offered condolences and promised federal government aid.

Officials in Arkansas say 15 people were killed when tornadoes touched down on Sunday, while in Oklahoma at least two people died and one died in Iowa.

“It’s been a truly awful night for many families, neighbourhoods and communities but Arkansans always step up to help each other recover,” Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe wrote on Twitter.

Damaged vehicles were strewn across the road and trees had their limbs stripped by the storm.

Television footage shows damaged vehicles along a road north of state capital Sunday and trees that were stripped of their leaves and small branches along Interstate 40 between the suburbs of Maumelle and Mayflower.

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