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Tornado kills 22 in Indiana

Storm struck in middle of night, catching many asleep




Emergency Incidents

EVANSVILLE, Indiana (CNN) -- At least one tornado ripped through southern Indiana near Evansville before dawn Sunday, killing at least 22 people and injuring about 230.

Related storms also caused extensive damage and killed horses at a Kentucky race track as a line of severe thunderstorms crossed the area.

Rescuers searched for survivors past nightfall amid the ruins of numerous mobile homes in Evansville where witnesses said several trailers had been picked up by the winds and tossed into a nearby lake.

Adam Groupey, deputy director of emergency management for Evansville and Vanderburgh County, said the tornado touched down about 2 a.m. in Henderson County, Kentucky, then crossed the Ohio River and hit an Evansville mobile home park before moving into Warrick County.

One resident of the trailer park told WFIE of Evansville she saw a tornado pick up a car with members of her family in it and toss the vehicle into a tree. Brandi Crawley said no one was seriously injured. (Watch survivors talk about their experiences -- 1:12)

"The damage is very, very extensive," said Chad Bennett, an assistant fire chief in Newburgh, in Warrick County. He said the hardest hit area of Newburgh was just north of the city limits.

He described the "scope of the damage" as "very shocking."

"There was a whole apartment complex that lost all of the top floors of the units and then some of the second floors," Bennett told CNN. "I talked to people who were in the streets crying."

Bennett estimated the damage path was about 3/4 of a mile wide and 20 miles long. (Map of the area)

Groupey said officials had declared a local state of emergency, the first step toward requesting state assistance.

Many residents said the storm moved through quickly, with the rush of wind lasting a matter of seconds.

One area resident, Joel Johnson, told WFIE: "You could hear the wind; it really does blow like a train."

The National Weather Service had issued warnings for the area about 30 minutes before the tornado struck, but many people were asleep and not aware of them.

Bennett said the county set off tornado warning sirens about 10 minutes before the storm slammed the area.

'Terrible wind'

Vanderburgh County Coroner Don Erk said at least 17 people were killed in that county and that the bodies of five more from neighboring Warrick County were being transferred to his facility.

"I'm sure there's going to be more," he said.

Assistant Fire Chief Matt Timmel, from the volunteer fire department in Newburgh, said rescue efforts were taking place in "very rural country."

"They found one family deceased in the middle of a bean field," he said.

"We had a terrible wind all day long," Timmel said. "It just started increasing and increasing."

"There were houses that were leveled," he said.

Michael Hart, a spokesman for Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, said the facility had received 50 patients, 15 of them in critical condition.

St. Mary's Medical Center in Evansville has treated 150 people for injuries and admitted 30 of them, 12 in critical condition, spokesman Jeff Jones said.

Typical injuries included fractures, lacerations and blunt trauma to the chest and head, he said.

At St. Mary's hospital in Warrick, 30 patients were treated, six of whom were in critical condition, Jones said.

One hundred of the 320 mobile homes had been destroyed and 125 others had been damaged, said Pam Bright of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

She said it was the deadliest twister to hit the area since 1974. An outbreak of 21 tornadoes hit 39 counties in one day, killing 47 people.

A spokeswoman for the American Red Cross said the agency was providing food, clothing, shelter and mental health assistance to about 35 families in the area.

In addition, about 21,000 households were without power, Mike Roeder, a spokesman for Vectren Power, said Sunday morning.

Authorities said there were downed power lines and that people should stay in their homes.

John Asher, vice president of communications for Churchill Downs, which owns Ellis Park horse track in Henderson County in Kentucky, said some of the 150 race horses there died.

Before Sunday's storm, seven tornadoes had killed 10 people since January in the United States.

CNN's Ann Kellan and Niles Schumer contributed to this report.

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