Rescuers Seek Tornado Survivors

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From News Services
Monday, May 7, 2007

GREENSBURG, Kan., May 6 -- Rescue crews used dogs and flashlights to comb piles of debris that once were homes and businesses in a meticulous search on Sunday for survivors of a killer tornado.

National Guard engineers were being assigned to help with the search and assess the damage, said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state's adjutant general.

"Some of the rubble is just so deep," Bunting said. "That's really what our problem is."

"The focus is on covering a large area as fast as possible," said Kansas Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson.

Four Army soldiers from Fort Riley and a reserve police officer, all of whom had come on their own to assist in the rescue, were arrested on suspicion of looting cigarettes and alcohol from a store, state officials said.

In a separate incident, two people wearing Red Cross jackets who were not members of the relief agency were arrested on suspicion of looting, officials said.

At least 10 people were killed in southwestern Kansas by weekend storms.

Eight of the dead were in the area around Greensburg. Only a few structures in the town survived the storm: the Bar H Tavern, which was briefly converted into a morgue; the town's courthouse, damaged but still standing; and the massive concrete silos of a grain elevator.

All of Greensburg's churches were destroyed. Every business on Main Street was demolished. The town's fire engines were crushed, and other crumpled vehicles were thrown around. Tree trunks stood bare, stripped of most of their branches.

Greensburg remained off limits to residents Sunday, but they would be allowed to return Monday morning to recover what they could, officials said. Residents were to be bused in and would have to leave by 6 p.m.

"We realize they're trying to find people who are missing. But it would be nice to go in there and get some things before the rain ruins everything," Sarah Coates, 24, told the Los Angeles Times as she left a nearby emergency shelter with her grandmother.

The National Weather Service classified the Friday tornado as an F5, the highest category on its scale. The weather service said the tornado had winds estimated at 205 mph and carved a track 1.7 miles wide and 22 miles long. The last tornado that strong killed 36 people in Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999.

President Bush declared parts of Kansas a disaster area, freeing up federal money to aid in recovery.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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