Iowa tornadoes leave 7 dead and scores injured

State's deadliest storm in more than a decade destroyed dozens of homes

Clean-up efforts are under way in Winterset, Iowa, after a tornado tore through an area south-west of town. AP
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Seven people were killed, including two children, when several tornadoes swept through the US state of Iowa, destroying homes and knocking down trees and power lines in the state's deadliest storm in more than a decade, authorities said on Monday.

Emergency management officials in Madison County, Iowa, said four were injured and six were killed Saturday when one tornado touched down in the area south-west of Des Moines near the town of Winterset at about 4.30pm. Among those killed were two children under the age of 6 and four adults.

In Lucas County, about 87 kilometres south-east of Des Moines, officials confirmed one death and several reported injuries when a separate tornado struck less than an hour later.

Thunderstorms that spawned tornadoes moved through much of Iowa from the afternoon until Saturday night with storms also causing damage in the Des Moines suburb of Norwalk, areas east of Des Moines and other areas of eastern Iowa.

Officials reported a number of homes were damaged or destroyed, roads were blocked by downed lines and tree branches were shredded by the strong winds. At one point, power cuts affected more than 10,000 in the Des Moines area.

The storms are the deadliest to occur in Iowa since May 2008 when a tornado destroyed about 300 homes and killed nine people in the northern city of Parkersburg.

Scientists have said that extreme weather events and warmer temperatures are more likely to occur with climate change.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Madison County, which allows state resources to be used to assist with response and recovery efforts. Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said 52 homes were damaged or destroyed across about 23km.

The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed Sunday on the devastation in Iowa. Mr Biden reached out to Ms Reynolds and directed the leaders of the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to remain in close contact with state and local officials as they assessed damage and determined what federal assistance was needed, the White House said in a statement.

After touring the storm damage near Winterset, Ms Reynolds described “unimaginable destruction".

Ms Reynolds teared up as she described the hundreds of people who streamed into the area to volunteer to help clear debris that blocked roads and littered the hardest-hit areas.

“It’s just unbelievable. I tried to walk through and thank them and over and over [and] the response was, we’re Iowans and that’s what we do,” she said.

The foundation was all that was left of several homes. The tornado carved a path of destruction along a ridge while several hundred metres away, other homes were undamaged.

Officials identified the six people who were killed in Madison County as Melissa Bazley, 63; Rodney Clark, 64; Cecilia Lloyd, 72; Michael Bolger, 37; Kenley Bolger, 5; and Owen Bolger, 2. The victims came from three different households.

Lucas County officials didn't immediately identify the person who died there Sunday afternoon.

Six people hurt in Madison County, which is known for the Bridges of Madison County book and movie, were being treated for injuries on Sunday, but their conditions weren't immediately available.

Updated: June 21, 2023, 7:57 AM