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U.S. : April tornado losses as much as $5.5 bn

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The tornadoes and thunderstorms that carved  a swathe of destruction through the US southeast in late April left as much as  $5.5 billion in insured damages, catastrophe experts said Monday.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated the cost at $3.7-5.5  billion for the extraordinarily violent storms of April 22-28, which left 354  dead across seven states.

The deadliest tornado outbreak since 1925 destroyed thousands of homes,  including an estimated 5,000 alone in the hard-hit Alabama city of Tuscaloosa.

The disaster saw more than 200 tornado touchdowns, according to AIR,  including two rated EF-5, the strongest tornadoes with winds gusting more than  320 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour).

“These two — the Smithfield tornado in Mississippi and the Hackleburg  tornado in Alabama — both occurred on April 27, marking the first time in  more than 20 years that two EF-5s occurred on the same day,” AIR’s principal  scientist Tim Doggett.

He said there were also 12 EF-4 tornadoes, some with paths extending more  than 110 kilometers (70 miles).    “In areas of Tuscaloosa affected by the EF-4 tornado, large commercial  structures were reduced to rubble,” Doggett said in a statement.

“Many properties closer to the periphery of the tornado sustained  significant damage to their roofs and openings …. With the building envelope  breached, many sustained subsequent structural damage,” the statement read.

Washington, May 9, 2011 (AFP)