Death toll from storms lashing central U.S. rises to seven

Death toll from storms lashing central U.S. rises to seven
Debris from destroyed homes is shown in this aerial photo after a tornado touched down overnight in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Drone Base Copyright DRONE BASE(Reuters)
Copyright DRONE BASE(Reuters)
By Reuters
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By Antranik Tavitian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - The latest in a line of destructive storms pounding the central United States killed at least three people as tornadoes raked across Missouri while heavy rain flooded rivers in Oklahoma, authorities said on Thursday.

The three deaths and several injuries were recorded in and around Golden City, Missouri, some 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Joplin where a tornado touched down on Wednesday evening, the Missouri Department of Public Safety said on Twitter.

The casualties brought the week's weather-related death toll to at least seven, as forecasters said the rain and threat of damaging winds were not expected to let up.

"It looks to stay quite wet over the next week across the central portion of the country," said meteorologist Mark Chenard of the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

A system of showers stretched from the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma north to Nebraska on Thursday, threatening to bring more flooding, Chenard said. A diminished threat of tornadoes will persist from the Texas Panhandle through Kansas, he said.

In Jefferson City, the state capital of Missouri, officials said a "massive" twister caused widespread damage but no fatalities.

"Many, many buildings have significant damage, and there's a lot of them that just have small damage as well, so it's just very widespread," Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin told CNN.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson said at least 20 people were treated at hospitals but that most had been released.

"The damage tornadoes & severe storms cause is devastating, but I am encouraged & inspired by storm survivors. In a time of tragedy, Missourians came together and cared for their neighbours, and our first responders acted with speed & skill to rescue survivors," Parson wrote on Twitter.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that his heart went out to the people of Missouri.

"You are strong and resilient, and we are here to assist," he wrote.

Trump also urged Oklahomans to stay safe and listen to the warnings of local officials. "We are with you!" he tweeted.

Earlier this week, a tornado killed at least one person in Iowa, while two people in Oklahoma died in accidents on rain-slicked roads and a third in flooding.

The Arkansas River town of Webbers Falls was ordered evacuated on Thursday, while residents of several other communities were advised to leave, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Caine said by phone.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Tom Brown)

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