String of tornadoes kills more than 45 across US

Rescue crews searched for survivors yesterday after a storm spawned dozens of tornadoes across the southern US, killing 45 people in six states from Oklahoma to North Carolina, the hardest hit, with 62 twisters and at least 21 dead.

North Carolina's Governor, Beverly Perdue, declared a state of emergency, saying it was the worst storm since 1984, when 22 tornadoes killed 42 people. Bertie, a rural county 80km east of Raleigh, the state capital, had 11 deaths after a tornado swept houses from their foundations and flipped cars.

Many of the victims lived in mobile homes. A family of three was killed at one trailer park in Raleigh, while 60km away at the Cedar Creek park in Dunn, one woman died and a man was critically injured when a car was blown on top of him. Forty homes there were turned into unrecognisable piles of debris.

The storm claimed its first two lives on Thursday night in Oklahoma, then roared east through Arkansas, killing seven, Alabama, seven more, Mississipi, one, and Virginia, seven, including two who drowned in a flash flood.

In Sanford, 65 kilometres south-west of Raleigh, a tornado swept through a shopping district tearing the roofs off businesses. The front of one DIY store was flattened, with jagged beams ond wobbly siding sticking up from the pancaked entrance. No one was seriously injured because a quick thinking manager had herded more than 100 customers and staff into a windowless rear area.