Bulldozers on Saturday cut through twisted wreckage in a trailer park hardest hit by tornadoes that killed 27 people, and authorities feared the death toll could rise.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed as at least 30 twisters ripped across Kansas and 18 through Oklahoma Friday night. Twenty-four people died in Kansas and three in Oklahoma. More than 200 people were injured.At least 1,500 people were left homeless. Judy Conners of the Salvation Army said three shelters had been set up and the organization expected to feed 3,000 to 5,000 people Saturday night.
The Golden Spur Mobile Home Park in the suburban Wichita town of Andover was leveled, and at least 17 residents died, the mayor said, adding that some remained unaccounted for.
Gov. Joan Finney issued a state disaster declaration, the first step in getting federal assistance for the stricken areas.
"What I saw made me heartsick," she said after an aerial tour. "The devastation is more widespread than I had anticipated. The suffering must be intense."
Judy Ingalls, a park resident who was away when the twister struck and destroyed her mobile home, said all her neighbors are dead.
"They didn't go to the shelter. They've always rode them out. We've always rode them out. We've been here 15 years. They didn't go. They are taking them out."
Fire and National Guard crews in search of any missing people carefully moved wreckage from the trailer park, which looked more like a junkyard than a residential area. The search was suspended later to allow residents a chance to comb their properties for belongings.
Joe Smith, a construction worker who lived in the trailer park with his wife and son, said he tried to drive to the underground shelter.
"We didn't make it. We just had to ride it out in the car," he said. "I watched until the trailer next to me came apart. When that happened, I hit the floor. The windows were sucked into the car. The hood flew up and blew away."
They were not injured.
"I always said I wanted to see one," he added. "I never wanted to be in one. I just wanted to see it from a distance."
The governor, Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum, and Reps. Dan Glickman and Dick Nichols toured the devastated area Saturday in National Guard helicopters.
Andover Mayor Jack Finlason put the overall damage at about $50 million. Nearly all of the 240 mobile homes, an additional 110 Andover homes and 11 businesses were destroyed, he said.
Kansas lawmakers evacuated the Capitol before tornadoes hit Topeka. The Kansas House ended its session in the middle of a debate and fled the building when a tornado touched down in the northeast part of the city Friday night. No damage or injuries were reported.