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Tornadoes kill at least 22 across US

Numerous tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma in the evening hours as the storms ripped across the state at 35-45 miles per hour (55-70 kmh).

world Updated: May 12, 2008 03:38 IST

Rescue crews searched through rubble on Sunday for survivors of tornadoes which tore across the United States the on Saturday, killing at least 22 people and shattering homes and businesses, officials said.

Missouri's department of emergency management said 14 people were confirmed dead in the state, with scores more injured.

"We are still conducting some search and rescue today," department spokeswoman Susie Stonner told AFP, adding that some of the injured were "in hospital in critical condition."

Numerous tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma in the evening hours as the storms ripped across the state at 35-45 miles per hour (55-70 kmh), killing seven in the area near the town of Picher, the Oklahoma department of emergency management said. Some 150 people were injured.

The high winds ripped roofs off houses, and other homes were crushed to kindling as the storms downed power lines, utility poles and trees.

"In some cases, only a home's concrete slab remains," the state said in a statement.

The American Red Cross has opened shelters for those affected by the storms in Oklahoma and Missouri.

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry declared a state of emergency in the disaster area, and planned to visit it later Sunday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Picher and all of the other Oklahoma communities that have been impacted by the latest wave of severe weather," Henry told CNN.

National Guard troops were called to shut off access to Picher. The state said that about 6,300 homes and businesses were without electric power, including 3,000 near Tulsa.

US President George W Bush called it "a sad day for those who lost their lives in Oklahoma and Missouri and Georgia because of the tornadoes."

Speaking in Waco, Texas the day after his daughter Jenna's wedding on the family ranch, he said: "We send our prayers to those who lost their lives and the families of those who lost their lives, and the federal government will be moving hard to help."

Bush added that he would be "in touch with the governors to offer all the federal assistance we can."

The storms barrelled eastward and killed one person and damaged hundreds of homes in the Southeastern state of Georgia in the early morning hours of Sunday, the state's emergency management agency said.

Governor Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency for six counties hardest hit by severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes in central Georgia.

"Needed state resources are being made available to assist in the cleanup efforts, and we will continue to actively work with local officials to support them," Perdue said in a statement.

The small town of Kite, with some 1,000 residents, was devastated.

"From what I understand it has been completely destroyed," said department spokeswoman Lisa Janak. "It experienced significant damage."

"Many roads are still blocked and impassable," she said. "They're having problems with trees in the road, so these are very preliminary estimates, but the town of Kite sustained significant, significant damage."

Some 18,000 residents were without power in the state, Georgia Power told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In February, a string of storms brought rare winter tornadoes to the Southern states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama, killing 55 and injuring hundreds.