Tornado & Floods Kill 7 In US

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Severe storms that ripped through the central US left at least seven people dead in the state of Arkansas, officials said Tuesday, as flash flood warnings prompted mass evacuations in neighboring Missouri.

Strong storm winds and torrential downpours have slammed a swath of central US states in recent weeks, saturating the ground and leaving river levels precariously high.

Authorities Tuesday had begun evacuating 1,000 people along the swollen Black River near the Missouri city of Poplar Bluff, home to some 17,000 people, as a compromised levee reportedly failed at four points but likely to flood populated but rural areas, CNN reported, citing the city deputy police chief Jeff Rolland.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has already issued a flash flood warning for three counties in the southwest of the state.

“The levee along the Black River from Poplar Bluff… remains compromised in several locations,” the NWS warned in an advisory.

“A combination of heavy rainfall over the last five days… along with anticipated rainfall over the next 24 to 48 hours” has prompted the river stage of 21.2 feet (6.4 meters), easily eclipsing the river flood stage of 16.0 feet (4.8 meters), said the NWS.

The local police force had performed 59 water rescues on Monday alone, Rolland told CNN.

States of emergency were declared by governors in the states of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky due to flooding.

Flash flood warnings were issued by the NWS in Arkansas in the wake of a devastating tornado that slammed the central town of Vilonia late Monday that claimed the lives of four people, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Renee Presslar confirmed to AFP.

Search and rescue crews were assessing the damage to the town ahead of fresh storms expected to reach the region later in the day.

Three other people were killed when their vehicles were swept from the road in severe flooding in the state’s northwest, Presslar added.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe declared a state of emergency for his state late Monday night “in response to the severe storms and flooding that have impacted Arkansas,” also warning that there is “also a strong possibility of additional severe storms Tuesday afternoon and evening.”

In central and south Indiana the NWS issued a flash flood watch amid warnings of more thunderstorms expected through to Wednesday, saying heavy rains on already saturated ground could lead to overflowing rivers later in the week.

The NWS issued a similar, but more urgent warning for the small Kentucky town of Sulphur where a dam was on the brink of failing.

“If you live near this river… evacuate to higher ground now!” NWS cautioned with an unusual use of an exclamation mark.

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