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'The whole house just exploded'

Death toll in Indiana twister climbs to 22 as body pulled from lake




Emergency Incidents

EVANSVILLE, Indiana (CNN) -- Searchers pulled a body Monday from a lake adjacent to an Indiana mobile home park ravaged by a tornado, bringing the total dead from the Sunday morning twister to 22.

Eighteen of the victims lived in the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park in Evansvile.

The searchers were still draining the 6-foot-deep lake late Monday, the only area of the trailer park they had yet to search.

The pond is likely to take all night to drain, said Eric Williams, chief deputy for the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department.

Residents of the area will be allowed to return to their homes Wednesday to go through their wrecked homes and salvage what they can, Williams said.

The twister that hit the trailer park was part of a line of thunderstorms that smashed through the region about 2 a.m. Sunday. (Watch a family's losses, a grandson saved -- 2:18)

Besides the 18 dead in Vanderburgh County, four people were killed in neighboring Warrick County. Authorities there are counting as a fifth death the 8-month-old fetus of a victim. More than 200 people were injured.

"Mother Nature picked the worst place to drop a tornado," said Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth. "It's an open field, a mobile home park. There's just nowhere to go."

Gov. Mitch Daniels declared a statewide emergency and plans to ask for federal disaster assistance, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman told reporters.

She said President Bush called Daniels, his former budget director, on Monday and asked how the federal government could help.

Bush, who was in Panama on his way home from a hemisphere conference in Argentina, said Daniels "felt like the response that we had given was appropriate at this time."

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on the scene.

Skillman said a number of residents complained they had not been able to hear warning sirens, a failure she called "so unfortunate."

"We'll let the local government officials determine if their warning systems were working adequately," she said.

Dale Naylor, assistant chief for the Knight Township Fire Department, told CNN he was "99.9 percent sure" there were no more survivors or victims in the mobile home park.

The destruction came in the middle of the night when most people were sleeping and sightings weren't possible.

"It was 2 o'clock in the morning," Naylor said. "I'm not sure what else you could do. I heard the alarms."

The 'house just exploded'

Casey Lockhart said he had no warning when he awoke in his rural home.

"When I woke up, [it] sounded like hail hitting the window and all of a sudden the whole house just exploded," he told CNN.

"Then I was spun around a couple times and the roof and all the debris come in on top of me, and took me about a half an hour to dig myself out."

Chad Bennett, an assistant fire chief in Newburgh, in Warrick County, estimated Sunday that the damage path was about three-fourths of a mile wide and 20 miles long. (Map of the area)

The National Weather Service issued warnings for the area about 30 minutes before the tornado struck, and Bennett said the county set off tornado warning sirens about 10 minutes before the storm slammed the area.

Before Sunday, seven tornadoes bad been blamed for the deaths of 10 people in 2005.

"Within the first hour, we rescued over 40 people from structures," Naylor told reporters at a news conference. "Throughout the day, we had a number of active rescues, with the last one about 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

"We turned over every piece of debris on the site, backed it up with search dogs throughout the day. We are confident if somebody was still there, we would have found them."

Cleanup, Naylor said, would take "more than weeks."

"It's going to be a hand-cleaning effort," he said, indicating forested areas littered with debris, some of it hanging from tree branches. "It's going to take months, maybe a year."

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