At Least 11 Dead in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after Severe Weather Roars across Region

A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)
A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)
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At Least 11 Dead in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after Severe Weather Roars across Region

A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)
A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)

Powerful storms killed at least 11 people and left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central US.

Seven deaths were reported in Cooke County, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado Saturday night plowed through a rural area near a mobile home park, officials said. Storms also caused damage in Oklahoma, where guests at an outdoor wedding were injured. Tens of thousands of residents were without power across the region.

“It’s just a trail of debris left. The devastation is pretty severe,” Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told The Associated Press.

The dead included two children, ages 2 and 5, the sheriff said. Storms also destroyed a nearby truck stop where dozens of people had rushed to take shelter.

The dead in Texas included three family members who were found in one home near the small community of Valley View, Sappington said.

Officials said multiple people were transported to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter in the Texas county of Denton, but they did not immediately know the full extent of the injuries.

At least two people were reported killed in Arkansas, including a 26-year-old woman who was found dead outside a destroyed home in Olvey, a small community in Boone County, according to Daniel Bolen, with the county’s Office of Emergency Management.

Another person died in Benton County, Arkansas. Melody Kwok, a county communications director, said multiple other people were injured and that emergency workers were still responding to calls.

“We are still on search and rescue right now,” she said. “This is a very active situation.”

Officials also confirmed two deaths in Mayes County, Oklahoma. Details about the dead were not immediately available, said Mike Dunham, the county's deputy director of emergency management.

The destruction continued a grim month of deadly severe weather in the nation's midsection.

Tornadoes in Iowa this week left at least five people dead and dozens injured. The deadly twisters have spawned during a historically bad season for tornadoes, at a time when climate change contributes to the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.

In Texas, a tornado crossed into Denton County, north of Dallas, overturning tractor-trailers and halting traffic on Interstate 35, county spokesperson Dawn Cobb said. A shelter was opened in the rural town of Sanger.

Sappington said at least 60 to 80 people were inside a highway truck stop, some of them seeking shelter, when the storm barreled through, but there were no serious injuries.

Daybreak began to reveal the full scope of the devastation. Aerial footage showed dozens of damaged homes, including many without roofs and others reduced to rubble.

Residents woke up to overturned cars and collapsed garages. Some residents could be seen pacing around and sorting through scraps of wood, assessing the damage. Nearby, neighbors sat on the foundation of a wrecked home.

At the height of the storms, more than 24,000 homes and businesses lost power in Oklahoma, according to the state Office of Emergency Management. The agency also reported extensive damage from baseball-sized hail and multiple injuries at an outdoor wedding that was being held in rural Woods County.

Meteorologists and authorities issued urgent warnings to seek cover as the storms marched across the region overnight. “If you are in the path of this storm take cover now!” the National Weather Service office in Norman posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In Texas, the Denton Fire Department posted on social media that emergency crews near Dallas were responding to a marina “for multiple victims, some reported trapped.” Inaccessible roads and downed power lines in Oklahoma also led officials in the town of Claremore, near Tulsa, to announce on social media that the city was “shut down” due to the damage.

April and May have been a busy month for tornadoes, especially in the Midwest. Iowa was hit hard last week, when a deadly twister devastated Greenfield. Other storms brought flooding and wind damage elsewhere in the state.

The system causing the latest severe weather was expected to move east over the rest of the Memorial Day weekend, bringing rain that could delay the Indianapolis 500 auto race Sunday in Indiana and more severe storms in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky.

The risk of severe weather moves into North Carolina and Virginia on Monday, forecasters said.



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.