Arkansas tornado: At least 17 people killed as twisters tear through heart of America

Several twisters wreaked huge destruction at the start of this year's devastating tornado season

At least 17 people have been killed after several tornadoes ripped paths of destruction through the central and south United States on Sunday.

A colossal tornado carved an 80-mile trail of devastation through central Arkansas, claiming the lives of at least 16 people.

The twister was the largest of several generated by a powerful storm system that marked the start of this year’s tornado season.

Arkansas authorities said at least ten people were killed in Faulkner County, as well as five people in Pulaski County and one person in White County.

Another tornado left one person dead in Quapaw, Oklahoma, on Sunday before trailing northward into Kansas, where it destroyed dozens of homes in the city of Baxter Springs.

Tornadoes also touched down in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.

Forecasters had warned for days that violent weather would strike over the weekend but forewarning could not protect people from the natural disasters.

Winds ripped houses off their foundations and flipped cars on top of the rubble in the small town of Vilonia in central Arkansas' Faulkner county, one of the worst-hit communities, television pictures showed.

Rescuers faced a grim search through mounds of rubble in Vilonia and a spokesman for the County Sheriff's office said there was a “mass casualty situation”.

US Representative Tim Griffin told Reuters: “An entire neighbourhood of 50 or so homes has been destroyed. Many homes are completely gone except the foundation ... There is more devastation like this in other parts of Arkansas.”

Cable television's Weather Channel showed videotape of mangled, overturned cars, some with people still inside, on a stretch of Interstate 40, a major thoroughfare in and out of the state's capital. Motorists searched crushed vehicles for victims while others stood dazed on the road. Authorities closed the route.

A tornado hit the east side of Mayflower at around 7.30pm, killing at least one person, tearing up trees and bringing down power lines, making it difficult for the emergency services to find stricken areas in the dark, according to officials.

The Arkansas National Guard was deployed to help out in the state.

At least one other person was killed in a tornado in the small town of Quapaw, in the northeast corner of neighboring Oklahoma, according to Ottawa County Sheriff's Department spokesman Derek Derwin.

That twister was spotted in the town 200 miles northeast of Oklahoma City at about 5:45pm, according to the weather service.

Media and the National Weather Service reported that two people were killed.

The Missouri Highway Patrol reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70. No one was injured.

Additional reporting by agencies

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style