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A van hangs over the side of a parking garage at Lambert St. Louis International Airport last night. Jeff Roberson/AP
St Louis

St Louis airport closed 'indefinitely' after tornado destruction

The roof is lifted off one concourse and thousands of windows are shattered, but miraculously only four people are injured.

AN APPARENT TORNADO has torn through a section of St Louis’ international airport, lifting the roof off a concourse, injuring several people and forcing the airport’s closure.

Planes were diverted to other locations as emergency crews probed the debris at the Lambert Field airport for more wounded. The city’s mayor Francis Slay said Lambert would be shut down “indefinitely”.

Four people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries after glass shattered as the storm hit, an airport spokesman said, explaining that the storm had lifted the roof off one concourse and sent plate glass flying everywhere.

An unspecified number of others were treated at the scene for cuts blamed on flying glass.

“We have all hands on deck here,” the spokesman said, noting that responders have included a cadre of workers from the city and county. “This is something we’re putting a lot of attention to.”

Passengers from at least two planes were stranded briefly on the Lambert tarmac because of debris but were later taken away by buses. An Air National Guard facility at the airport was reportedly damaged.

The airport’s main terminal sustained the most damage. Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said roughly half of that structure’s windows were blown out, sending glass and rain into that building.

Elsewhere on the property, trees were toppled and power lines downed, further limiting access to the airport even hours after the storm left its destruction.

“We’re fortunate we didn’t have larger [numbers of] injuries,” she said.

Pieces of twisted metal lay outside the terminal, the remains of a fierce line of storms that struck central and eastern Missouri. Unconfirmed tornadoes were reported in several counties in the St. Louis area, and thousands lost power.

Governor Jay Nixon announced late last night that he had declared a state of emergency, allowing state agencies to assist local jurisdictions with their emergency responses to the storm’s aftermath, including the destruction at Lambert.

“The state of Missouri is ready to assist at every stage of this emergency to keep Missouri families safe and help communities recover,” Nixon said.


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