Tornado wallops Kansas town; 1 reported killed, dozens injured


GREENSBURG, Kan. Rescuers pulled about 30 people from a partially collapsed hospital Saturday after a tornado ripped through this southwest Kansas community and killed at least one person.

The injuries of those who were trapped there were minor, said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General s Department.

The tornado struck Friday night, leaving a broad swath of destruction in the Kiowa County town about 110 miles west of Wichita. The storm front spawned tornadoes along a path stretching northeast from Greensburg through central Kansas.

Watson said authorities were trying to account for all the residents of the town, and did not have an exact count on the injured.

Phone service to the town of about 1,600 residents was knocked out, and the state s department of transportation was trying to restore emergency service.

Emergency personnel and search and rescue teams from throughout southwest Kansas raced toward Greensburg after the twister struck.

The injured were taken to hospitals as far away as Dodge City, where the Western Plains Medical Complex confirmed one fatality. The Pratt Regional Medical Center treated about 50 people, a hospital spokeswoman said. Three patients were sent on to Wichita s Wesley Medical Center, including two who were in critical condition, she said.

Search dogs accompanied law enforcement officers as they searched house to house for anyone trapped or injured.

Roads into and out of Greensburg were closed for several hours to allow emergency vehicles to reach the town.

The National Weather Service described the tornado as a wedge, an especially broad and tall formation. Frederick Kruse of the weather service s Dodge City office said there were initial reports that the tornado was at least three-quarters of a mile wide on the ground.

Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General s Department, said the state fire marshal s office dispatched hazardous materials teams because railroad cars in Kiowa County had overturned.

She said the National Guard was sending 40 troops to provide security around Greensburg.

Shelters were opened for Greensburg residents at Barclay College and a high school in nearby Haviland.

At the high school, the Rev. Gene McIntosh described how he huddled with his family in the parsonage of Greensburg s United Methodist Church as the tornado roared overhead. McIntosh said sofa cushions protected his 11-year-old son and the boy s friend from debris and insulation that fell from the basement ceiling.

There was a lot of praying down there, McIntosh said.

Elsewhere on Friday, three small tornadoes touched down in rural southwestern Illinois, but officials said there were no reports of injury or damage. Two tornadoes struck in Oklahoma, damaging some structures but injuring no one, officials said.

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