With ferocious winds of up to 200mph and hailstones the size of
tennis balls, the tornadoes that swept across the American Midwest
like something out of a Hollywood thriller.
But for the 53 million people in 10 states who were at risk, and the
tens of thousands left without power, the terrifying storms wreaking
havoc across the US are all too real.
At least six people – all in Illinois, the most seriously affected
state – have been killed. But as the storms move eastwards, experts
fear that the death toll could rise.
Hundreds of people have been injured in states such as Indiana and
Kentucky, with a number left trapped inside buildings, and entire
neighborhoods have been flattened.
Thousands of schools across the region remained closed today, many
of which have been significantly damaged by the high winds.
Experts have been surprised by the ferocity of the storms – November
is usually one of the quietest months of the year for tornadoes. The
severe conditions hit the US just days after Typhoon Haiyan caused
devastation in the Philippines.
Meteorologists warned Midwesterners to be vigilant, as the tornadoes
are continuing to move rapidly and can strike with little warning.
President Barack Obama is being regularly briefed on the situation.
Michael Perdun of Washington, Illinois saw his entire house being
destroyed by a tornado. “I stepped outside and I heard it coming,” he
“My daughter was already in the basement, so I ran downstairs and
grabbed her, crouched in the laundry room and all of a sudden I could
see daylight up the stairway and my house was gone. The whole
neighborhood’s gone, [and] the wall of my fireplace is all that is left
of my house.”
Illinois officials have described the situation in the state as
“dangerous and volatile”, and are now enforcing a curfew between dusk
and dawn after reports of looting.
Football fans had to be evacuated from a stadium in the center of
Chicago during the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears game, as a
tornado hurtled through the city’s suburbs.
Karen Harris, a food truck operator in Washington, told the BBC that
the scene was “like a war zone”.
“Telephone wires [are] down everywhere, live wires are still down.
I’m pretty traumatized from what I saw,” she said. “I actually saw a
vehicle in the middle of the road, their left signal light turned on,
like they were getting ready to turn, all the windows were out of it,
blood was in the back seat.”
1. What is a tornado? Can you think of any other types of natural
2. In your opinion, do disasters like this bring out the best or the
worst in people? Explain your reasoning.
3. What are the best ways for us to help victims of natural disasters?
4. We hear of natural disasters very frequently in the news. What might
be the reasons for this?