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March 7, 2012

Death toll rises to 38 in historic tornado outbreak

The powerful tornadoes that ripped a destructive scar across the nation's belly Friday killed at least 38 people and caused millions of dollars in damage, govenrment officials report.

The Department of Homeland Security said 19 people died in Kentucky, 14 in Indiana, three in Ohio and one each in Georgia and Alabama. The agency said additional fatalities may result as cleanup crews clear the rubble from more than 85 twisters in 10 states.

Hundreds of others were injured in the biggest one-day burst of tornadoes in March in U.S. Weather Service history. They included a 2-year-old girl from Salem, Ind., who was found alive 10 miles from her home in a farm field.

The girl was taken to Kosair Children's Hospital in nearby Louisville, Ky., where officials said she was in critical condition. They did not identify the child except to say she was swept away from her family home in New Pekin, Ind.

Thousands of homes and businesses in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio were without power and water service in the aftermath of the tornadoes, the second round of twisters to strike the nation's midsection this week. Thirteen people were killed Tuesday in a series of tornadoes that struck Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, including six deaths in Harrisburg, Ill.

Government officials said property damage would run into the millions,and maybe even beyond, based on the double dose of twisters. Affected regions were declared federal disaster areas, making them eligible for recovery grants.

Friday's twisters mostly hammered small rural towns from Alabama to Ohio. Deaths were reported in ones and twos here and there, though four people -- a couple in their 60s and their 4-year-old great-grandchild -- died in Chelsea, Ind. The child's mother survived.

State troopers and national guardsmen were dispatched to the hardest hit areas by governors in Kentucky and Indiana to help with the recovery and assure public safety.

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