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Help flows to towns hit by tornado

Communities on both sides of Rio Grande begin cleaning up after powerful twister.

BY STAFF REPORT | EAGLE PASS, Texas | April 26, 2007

Help began arriving Wednesday in the Texas border town of Eagle Pass as the community began digging out and cleaning up from a powerful tornado that struck the area killing seven people and injuring more than 80.

The scene was much the same across the border in Piedras Negras, Mexico, where three people died and at least 40 were reported injured.

The tornado Tuesday night left a wide swath of destruction, damaging or destroying at least 100 homes and businesses, two elementary schools, a church and a sewage treatment plant.

Officials said the death toll could have been higher if the twister had struck a few hours earlier when children were still in school.

Search and rescue teams and equipment were sent to Eagle Pass, along with medical crews and other state resources as the community began cleanup efforts.

Hundreds of people spent a second night in emergency shelters set up by the American Red Cross. On Thursday they were allowed to return to their homes for the first time since the twister hit.

The Salvation Army sent five mobile feeding kitchens to Eagle Pass and was also serving survivors and relief crews in Piedras Negras. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief deployed one cleaning unit, one feeding unit and one chaplain to Eagle Pass.

Some 1,700 clean clothing packets, along with 400 sheets and blankets and 700 personal hygiene kits were sent to the area by Adventist Community Services.

The Family Service Association said it had counselors in Eagle Pass, a town of about 24,000 and the county seat of Maverick County.

Businesses such as the HEB grocery store chain shipped in food and water to the affected area.

The Humane Society also sent crews and wire crates to help people find and rescue family pets.

A San Antonio-based group, Amigos De Coahuila, established a disaster relief fund called San Antonio Helping Mexico, for survivors in Piedras Negras, a town of about 142,000.

On the U.S. side of the border, officials said that five members of one family were killed when their mobile home was slammed into a nearby building. Another death in Shreveport, La., was linked to the storm, bring the death toll to at least 11.

Of the dozens injured in the Eagle Pass area, located southwest of San Antonio, four people were reported in critical condition. As many as 32 people were treated and released.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a state disaster proclamation for Maverick County after touring the devastated area. Disaster proclamations for two north Texas counties, Moore and Swisher, were also issued. Those areas were hit by tornadoes earlier in the week.

Perry requested that the federal government issue disaster declarations for all three counties.

"Though recovery will not be immediate, we know that homes and business can be rebuilt," Perry said. "Tragically though, the lives lost cannot. But the state will stand with these communities throughout this tragedy, from rescue to full recovery, in order to bring about a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible."

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