May 11, 2008 in Nation/World

Storms kill 18 in Oklahoma, Missouri

Marcus Kabel Associated Press

SENECA, Mo. – A tornado that spun across the Oklahoma-Missouri border killed at least 18 people as severe storms raked the nation’s heart Saturday, injuring many and mangling buildings in the storm-weary region.

At least 12 people were killed after severe storms spawned tornadoes and high winds across sections of southwestern Missouri, the State Emergency Management Agency said. Ten of the dead were killed when a twister struck near Seneca, near the Oklahoma border.

At least six people were killed as the tornado flattened the northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher, authorities said.

“They’re going over the hard-hit area and turning over everything and looking,” SEMA spokeswoman Susie Stonner said of emergency workers’ search for victims and assessment of damage. “It’s hard to do in the dark.”

The number of injuries across the area was not immediately available, though the Joplin (Mo.) Globe reported that more than 90 people from that region were being treated at Joplin hospitals.

The tornado in Picher – a depressed, pollution-scarred mining town that many residents had already fled – caused major damage in a 20-block area, said Oklahoma’s Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.

“I know they are going through the rubble, trying to find people missing,” she said. “There are numerous injuries.”

Gov. Brad Henry issued a statement saying a major emergency response was under way.

Television footage showed some destroyed outbuildings and damaged homes west of McAlester and near Haywood. At a glass plant southwest of McAlester, the storm apparently picked up a trailer and slammed it on top of garbage bins.

In Arkansas, a tornado collapsed a home and a business, and there were reports of a few people trapped in buildings, said Weather Service meteorologist John Robinson.

Central Park Elementary School in the northwest Arkansas city of Bentonville had roof and window damage, and damage was also reported at Pine Creek Center School.

The storms remained active into the night as they swept eastward, with watches and warnings abundant across a wide swath of the Plains and South.

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