The Australian / Agence France-Presse – 2007-05-08 07:45:02
WASHINGTON (May 8, 2007) — US President George W. Bush has vowed to deliver federal aid to rebuild a tornado-ravaged town in Kansas, but relief efforts are likely to be hampered because much of the equipment usually positioned around the state to respond to emergencies is now in Iraq.
Rescue teams yesterday scoured the rubble of schools, homes and shops looking for survivors of Saturday’s twister that flattened the small southwestern Kansas community of Greensburg, killing eight people and injuring more than 60. Two other people were dead as a result of nearby storms.
“I’m confident this community will be rebuilt. To the extent we can help, we will,” Mr Bush said. “They said to me it’s hard to describe how bad this community was hit. I have declared a major disaster for that community and I hope that helps.”
Authorities said the twister damaged or destroyed 90per cent of the commercial and residential buildings in Greensburg, a town of 1800 residents about 200km west of Wichita.
The massive tornado made a direct hit on the small prairie town, ripping homes off their foundations and even damaging below-ground shelters.
The National Weather Service classified the tornado as an F-5, the highest category on its scale. The weather service said it had wind estimated at 328km/h, and carved a track 2.7km wide and 35km long.
The twister is the first classified as an F-5 since May 3, 1999, when a tornado killed 36 people in Oklahoma City. US weather forecasters warned yesterday that more deadly twisters were possible across the central plains, but those forecasts were downgraded by evening to a risk of scattered thunderstorms.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said the state’s response was likely be hampered because much of the equipment usually placed around the state to respond to emergencies – including tents, trucks and semitrailers – was now in Iraq to help with the US war effort.
“Not having the National Guard equipment, which used to be positioned in various parts of the state, to bring in immediately is really going to handicap this effort to rebuild,” Ms Sebelius said yesterday.
The Kansas Guard has less than half the equipment it is allotted because much of it has already been sent to Iraq, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the adjutant-general’s office, which manages state resources in emergencies.
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