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Tornado kills 23 in Indiana; disaster relief units activated

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (BP)–The deadliest tornado to hit Indiana in more than 30 years killed at least 23 people and cut a path 20 miles long in the early morning hours Nov. 6, and the same storm system spawned a tornado that damaged much of downtown Munfordville, Ky., and one that wrought havoc on a Churchill Downs-affiliated racetrack in Henderson, Ky.

Preliminary reports indicated that at Gateway Baptist Church in Newburgh, Ind., part of the roof was blown off and a pavilion was destroyed by the twister, according to a spokesperson with the Southwest Baptist Association. No other churches in the association had reported problems after the storm.

Indiana Baptist disaster relief workers were on the scene immediately after the storm to begin cleaning up with chainsaws, and a Kentucky Baptist feeding unit was set up in the parking lot of the Southwest Baptist Association in Evansville, prepared to serve meals to those displaced by the tornado.

The twister, which was the deadliest to hit Indiana since 21 tornadoes killed 47 people there in 1974, struck at about 2 a.m. Central time, and few residents heard the emergency sirens that were sounded shortly before its arrival.

Hardest hit was the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park, just southeast of Evansville, according to The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. At least 18 people, including three children, died at the trailer park, and 50 of the 330 occupied homes were flattened. Estimates indicate nearly 200 people in the area were injured by the deadly tornado, which the National Weather Service said was an F3 with winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph.

“They were in trailer homes, homes that were just torn apart by the storm,” Deputy Vanderburgh County Coroner Annie Groves told the Associate Press. “It’s just terrible.”

Rescue and recovery efforts continued well into the night Sunday, and searchers were encouraged when they found a child trapped under debris but still alive. Cranes lifted displaced mobile homes and forklifts moved smashed cars, AP reported.

“All I could see was debris,” Tim Martin, a resident of the mobile home park, said. “I thought it was a bad dream.”

National Guard troops were activated in Indiana to help with search efforts and with security.

And across the Ohio River in Kentucky, another tornado touched down earlier in Munfordville, about 70 miles south of Louisville, with winds of 150 mph. No fatalities or significant injuries were reported there, according to The Courier-Journal.

“It’s absolutely miraculous given the destruction,” Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher said after a walking tour of the area.

Damage in Munfordville was estimated at $2 million, including 80 homes, numerous downtown businesses, the county courthouse and a local elementary school. Kentucky National Guard troops were providing security.

North of Munfordville in Henderson, Ky., the Churchill Downs-affiliated Ellis Park racetrack was heavily damaged by a tornado that killed three horses and destroyed large sections of the grandstand.

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