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Tornado hits northern Mexico as Texas reels from floods

President Enrique Pena Nieto plans to travel to northern Mexico, where a tornado killed at least 15. Across the border in the US, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has surveyed the damage caused by flash-flooding.

Without warning Monday, a tornado in Ciudad Acuna killed 15 people, including three children, left an infant missing after ripping a baby carrier from a woman's arms, and hospitalized 88 people. The whirlwind damaged about 750 homes - completely destroying at least 60 of them - in the city of 100,000 people across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, said Jesus Garcia, spokesman for the state of Coahuila.

"The worst has been the loss of human lives and the reports of several people disappeared - especially a child,"

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto

said. He said the federal government would coordinate with Coahuila authorities to assess "the damages caused and provide the necessary help."

Traveling at a speed of about 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph), the whirlwind blew gusts of over 200 kph, according to the government, taking the border city unawares in the early hours of Monday. A spokesman for the National Meteorological Service called it Mexico's strongest tornado in at least 15 years. Preliminary findings suggested that the twister had registered between a grade EF2 and EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the spokesman said.

Across the border in the US state of Texas on Monday, Governor Greg Abbott flew over parts of the rain-swollen Blanco River, a day after heavy rains pushed the river out of its banks and into surrounding homes in the small town of Wimberley. At a news conference, Abbott called the damage he saw "absolutely massive" following the storms' "relentless tsunami-type power."

Abbott stressed that communities downstream needed to monitor flood levels and take seriously the threat of the ongoing storms. However, he didn't offer updates on the dead or missing following the powerful storms sweeping through parts of Texas and northern Mexico.

In Texas, at least one person has died and 12 remain missing. Abbott added 24 counties to his disaster declaration, bringing the total to 37 counties in mostly the eastern half of the state. That allows for further mobilization of state resources to assist disaster-struck communities.

Over the weekend, a line of storms stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes dumped record rainfall on parts of Texas, Oklahoma and other US Plains and Midwest states.

mkg/rc (EFE, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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