Tornadoes sweep through Iowa; major damage and some injuries

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Roy Schweinebart, of Marshalltown, Iowa, shovels bricks from a tornado-damaged building near Main Street, Thursday, July 19, 2018, in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP)
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Damage to production plants at Vermeer Corp., a farm and construction equipment manufacturer in Pella, Iowa, is seen in an aerial view, Thursday, July 19, 2018, after a tornado went through the area. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Tornadoes sweep through Iowa; major damage and some injuries

  • The Marshalltown hospital’s emergency room remained open to treat patients injured in the storm
  • The exact number of tornadoes and their strength will be determined after further analysis

DES MOINES, Iowa: A flurry of tornadoes swept through central Iowa Thursday afternoon, injuring at least 17 people, flattening buildings in three cities and forcing the evacuation of a hospital.
The tornadoes formed unexpectedly and hit the cities of Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant as surprised residents ran for cover. The storms injured 10 people in Marshalltown and seven at a factory near Pella, but no deaths have been reported.
Hardest hit appeared to be Marshalltown , a city of 27,000 people about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Des Moines, where brick walls collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of the historic courthouse tumbled 175 feet (53 meters) to the ground.
UnityPoint Health hospital in Marshalltown was damaged, spokeswoman Amy Varcoe said.
Varcoe said all 40 of its patients were being transferred to the health system’s hospitals in Waterloo and Grundy Center.
The Marshalltown hospital’s emergency room remained open to treat patients injured in the storm, Varcoe said. Ten people injured in the storm had been treated by 7 p.m. Thursday, she said. She did not know how serious those patients’ injuries were.
Marshalltown resident Stephanie Moz said she, her husband and 2-month-old baby were in the downtown clothing store she owns when tornado sirens went off. The family sought shelter in the building’s basement and heard “cracking and booms and explosions” as the tornado passed.
The storm broke out a window, ruining clothing and hats on display there, and destroyed her husband’s vehicle, but she said she’s relieved.
“We went through a tornado and survived,” Moz said. “I’m happy.”
Weather forecasters said the tornadoes formed suddenly and took them by surprise.
Alex Krull, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said forecasting models produced Thursday morning showed only a slight chance of strong thunderstorms later in the day.
“This morning, it didn’t look like tornadic supercells were possible,” Krull said. “If anything, we were expecting we could get some large hail, if strong storms developed.”
Additional funnels were reported as the storm moved east of Des Moines past Altoona, Prairie City and Colfax.
Iowa State Rep. Mark Smith, who lives in Marshalltown, told Des Moines station KCCI-TV that the area likely will be declared a disaster area. Smith said his house and neighborhood were not damaged, but much of downtown and surrounding homes have been.
“There are houses with windows out, houses without roofs,” he said. “It’s just an absolute mess.”
Another tornado hit agricultural machinery maker Vermeer Manufacturing, where some people were still working, in the town of Pella, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines. It scattered huge sheets of metal through a parking lot and left one building with a huge hole in it.
Pella Regional Health Center spokeswoman Billie Rhamy said seven people injured at the Vermeer plant were treated at the hospital. All had minor injuries and were released after treatment, Rhamy said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said two primary storms spawned the series of damaging tornadoes. One developed in the Marshalltown area, causing damage there, while the other started east of Des Moines and traveled through Bondurant and into Pella.
The exact number of tornadoes and their strength will be determined after further analysis.


Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela

Updated 42 min 17 sec ago
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Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela

  • US President Donald Trump says Cuba has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro
  • Trump has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, despite repeated denials from his administration

HAVANA: Cuba rejected Tuesday the “despicable” accusation by US President Donald Trump that it has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Trump claimed that Maduro was being “protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers.”
“Let him show the evidence. Our government rejects this slander in the strongest and most categorical terms,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
He also claimed the US was “preparing a military intervention under a humanitarian pretext,” in a bid to oust Maduro.
The US has sent tons of aid to Colombia’s border with Venezuela in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is challenging Maduro’s authority.
Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of desperately needed food and medicines. But the military has barricaded the border crossing to prevent the aid from entering.
Guaido, the self-proclaimed acting president recognized by some 50 countries, says 300,000 Venezuelans could die without the aid.
Maduro, though, claims the aid is a smokescreen for an invasion.
Trump has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, despite repeated denials from his administration.
Rodriguez said the US-backed “imperialist coup” has failed but Guaido insists the aid will be brought in on Saturday, and has pressed the military to side with him and let the shipments enter the country.
“They’ve fixed a deadline to bring in humanitarian aid by force, which is in itself a contradiction,” added Rodriguez.
“What are their aims, what could they be if not to generate an incident that puts civilian lives at risk, that would provoke violence or unpredictable circumstances?”