Massachusetts emergency after tornadoes kill four

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A cluster of tornadoes has hit the US state of Massachusetts, killing at least four people.

They roared through some 20 towns, ripping off roofs, uprooting trees and scattering debris.

Worst hit was Springfield, the third largest city in the state, where 33 injuries were reported. A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard has been called in.

Tornadoes are rare, but not unheard of, in the north-eastern US.

State Governor Deval Patrick said the path of damage from the first and most powerful tornado rampaged from Westfield, just west of Springfield, and extended east to the community of Douglas.

Image caption,
Reader Grant Newman took this picture of tornado damage on Pennsylvania Avenue in Springfield

A second, slightly less powerful twister, cut a path from West Springfield to Sturbridge in the central part of the state.

The damaged area is about 90 miles (145km) west of Boston.

The storm struck after a tornado alert was issued for much of the East Coast, including Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

At least 48,000 homes have been left without electricity, said the Massachusetts governor.

The casualty figures are likely to rise, he warned at a news conference: "It is early going yet, so those are not final numbers. Although we are hoping and praying and working as hard as possible to keep the fatalities limited to those four."

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said he was joining Governor Patrick on a tour of the damage overnight.

Tornadoes are much more common, more powerful and more deadly in the south-eastern United States.

Alabama was hit hard in April. And 134 people were killed by a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, in May.