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Monday, December 28, 2015, 10:17

Christmastime storms kill at least 43 in US

By Reuters

Christmastime storms kill at least 43 in US
A Jeep Liberty sits destroyed on Shipman Street after Saturday's tornado in Rowlett, Texas, Dec 27, 2015. (Nathan Hunsinger / The Dallas Morning News via AP)

DALLAS - Storms hit the US South, Southwest and Midwest over the Christmas holiday weekend, unleashing floods and tornadoes that killed at least 43 people, flattened buildings and snarled transportation for millions during a busy travel time.

The bad weather or threat of it prompted the governors of Missouri and New Mexico to declare a state of emergency for their states.

Flash floods killed at least 13 people in Missouri and Illinois.

In Missouri, emergency workers have evacuated residents from their homes and conducted dozens of water rescues, Governor Jay Nixon said on Sunday. He said at least eight people had been killed and numerous roadways had been closed.

Nixon declared a state of emergency, saying continued rains would make already widespread flooding conditions worse.

Three adults and two children were in a car near the village of Patoka, Illinois, 137 km east of St. Louis, Missouri, when their vehicle was washed away by floodwaters on Saturday night, according to Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon.

In Texas, at least 11 people were killed in the Dallas area over the weekend by tornadoes, including one packing winds of up to 322 km per hour. The twister hit the city of Garland, killing eight people and blowing vehicles off highways.

"It is total devastation," Garland Police spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Barineau said. "It is a very difficult time to be struck by such a horrible storm the day after Christmas."

Three other deaths were reported in the Dallas metropolitan area, the United States' fourth most populous with about 7 million residents. Scores of people were injured in the region and more than 100 homes were damaged or destroyed, officials said.

"A tornado of that strength is very rare in a metropolitan area," National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop said in a telephone interview.

Powerful tornadoes are a staple of spring and summer in central states but occur less frequently in winter, according to US weather data.

The storms came on the heels of tornadoes that hit two days before Christmas, killing at least 18 people, including 10 in Mississippi.

The bad weather forced the cancellation of more than 1,100 flights in the nation on Sunday, according to tracking service About half of the canceled flights were in Dallas, a major US flight hub.

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