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Tornadoes kill at least 5 in Texas and Arkansas

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-05-12 09:24

Tornadoes kill at least 5 in Texas and Arkansas

Amy Parrish (2nd L) hugs a woman as she gathers personal items from her home after a tornado swept through the area the previous night in Van, Texas May 11, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

VAN, Texas - Emergency responders searched through splintered wreckage Monday after a line of tornadoes battered several small communities in Texas and Arkansas, killing at least five people.

Three people were still missing in a rural East Texas town, raising the possibility that the number of dead could climb. Scores of others were hurt, some critically.

A couple, in their late 20s or early 30s, died when a twister hit their mobile home late Sunday in the Arkansas town of Nashville.

Michael and Melissa Mooneyhan were trying to protect their daughter when the parents' trailer flipped over and "exploded,'' Howard County Coroner John Gray said.

"It's a miracle that little girl survived,'' Gray said. The girl, who is about 18 months old, was taken to the hospital and later released to relatives.

In neighboring Texas, a tornado pummeled the small town of Van, damaging about 30 percent of the community, according to Chuck Allen, fire marshal and emergency management coordinator for Van Zandt County.

Authorities confirmed at least two deaths.

For much of the day, eight people were still unaccounted for in Van, population 2,600, southeast of Dallas. Searchers eventually located five of them and planned to continue looking for the others into the evening.

Officials confirmed that the tornado was an EF3, with winds from 135 mph (215 kph) to 140 mph (225 kph), Allen said.

Rescuers went door to door checking on neighbors. Damage was widespread, with trees uprooted and numerous homes and buildings flattened or ripped apart.

At least 42 people were injured, according to two East Texas hospitals. Four patients were in critical condition.

Preliminary reports indicate 20 to 25 tornadoes formed Sunday in South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas, according to meteorologist Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

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