At least 13 people died and dozens more were injured after a freak tornado ripped through the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Acuna on Monday morning, flipping over cars and tearing down homes, the government said.
Among the dead were three children as the whirlwind damaged an estimated 750 homes in the city across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, said Jesus Garcia, spokesman for the local state of Coahuila.
Walls and ceilings collapsed under the force of the whirlwind, which traveled at a speed of some 31 mph (50 km per hour) and blew gusts over 124 mph, the government said, taking the border city unawares in the early hours of Monday.
President Enrique Pena Nieto viewed the damage wrought by the tornado from both the air and ground level late on Monday.
"This was a surprise event with no alert whatsoever from a satellite or any other kind of system that monitors these kinds of events," he said during a briefing with local, state and federal officials.
The tornado\’s path of destruction stretched for 1.1 miles (1.8 km) through the city.
"We\’re not used to such destruction," Ciudad Acuna\’s mayor Evaristo Lenin Perez told local radio. "We don\’t have records of a single tornado in Acuna, a 110-year-old city."
"Most of the dead are people who were outside, not people who were inside their homes."
The number of injured stood at 290 people, while 44 remain hospitalized, according to the health ministry.
A spokesman for the National Meteorological Service said it was the strongest tornado for at least 15 years in Mexico. Preliminary findings suggested it registered between a grade EF2 and EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, power outages hit about 4,900 users in the area, according to national electricity utility CFE, while full restoration is expected by the middle of the week.
After the twister had swept through the city, photos showed children climbing past mangled cars that had been swept into their homes, while adults salvaged valuables from the rubble.
Authorities have set up seven refuge points for those whose houses were destroyed, the Coahuila government said.
"We\’re working on clearing the debris of the destroyed buildings and cars that were displaced," said Francisco Martinez, the deputy minister for Civil Protection in Coahuila.
Coahuila\’s governor Ruben Moreira arrived this afternoon in Acuna, which had a population of around 134,000 in 2010, and promised authorities will lead the city\’s recovery.
Governor says deadly flooding is worst ever seen in Texas area
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday likened the ferocity of flash flooding that killed at least three people to a tsunami, and authorities said a dam had given way in a state park.
An intersection is flooded near the headwaters of the San Marcos River that flooded in San Marcos, Texas. Photo: REUTERS/Don Anders/Anders Photography
Abbott declared states of disaster in 24 counties and flew over the area south of Austin to assess the damage caused by tornadoes, heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and flooding that forced evacuations and rooftop rescues and left thousands of residents without electricity.
"This is the biggest flood this area of Texas has ever seen," Abbott said.
"It is absolutely massive – the relentless tsunami-type power of this wave of water," he said.
He described homes that were "completely wiped off the map" by the dangerous weather system that struck Texas and Oklahoma.
Authorities in Bastrop County, on the southeastern outskirts of Austin, reported in a Twitter feed that Lake Dam had failed in Bastrop State Park. They urged residents in the water\’s path to seek higher ground.
Accuweather.com said more rain was forecast into late Monday across the eastern half of Texas and Oklahoma, bringing flash floods, tornadoes and winds of more than 65 miles per hour (105 km per hour).
The National Weather Service reported 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) of rain fell in 90 minutes at Marquette, in central Kansas, washing out roads.
The bodies of a 14-year-old boy and his dog were found in a storm drain in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto on Monday, police said. Two other people killed in the storm were described as an unidentified man found dead in San Marcos, Texas, and a firefighter who was swept into a storm drain in Oklahoma.
The New York Times said a Tulsa, Oklahoma, woman also died on Saturday after her automobile hydroplaned on a highway.
Twelve people were listed as missing in Texas, including eight from an extended family from Corpus Christi who were vacationing in a home in Wimberley. The building was washed into the raging Blanco River, according to officials and the family\’s church.
Wimberley schools will be closed on Tuesday and a curfew in Wimberley and San Marcos was extended for a second night on Monday, Hays County officials said.
Parts of the area have received more than 1-1/2 feet (46 cm)of rain since May 1, six times what it typically receives in all of May, Accuweather.com said.
The governor\’s office said the severe weather could continue through the week.