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14 killed by tornadoes in central Florida

February 2, 2007

14 killed by tornadoes in central Florida

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Fourteen people were killed and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed when tornadoes ripped through central Florida on Friday, an official said. 

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes struck a wide area north of Florida's key tourism region of Orlando, reducing homes to rubble and splintered wood. Search and rescue teams fanned out to search for survivors and victims. 

"I have 14," Christopher Patton, spokesman for the Lake County emergency operations center, told Reuters, citing reports of fatalities from the county medical examiner's office. "I can confirm that number." 

Patton said three people were killed in Lady Lake, about 64 km northwest of Orlando, and 11 died in nearby Paisley, on the edge of the Ocala National Forest. 

"We have complete devastation of homes, of businesses, religious institutions," Patton said earlier on CNN. "It was unlike even perhaps the hurricanes of 2004 when we had minor roof damage, screen damage, pool damage. This is way far more devastating." 

Up to 100 homes were damaged in Sumter County but officials there said there were no reports of deaths. 

Television video showed homes reduced to rubble and residents belongings strewn across neighborhoods. 

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist postponed the scheduled presentation of his first budget because of the weather emergency. 

Walt Disney Co.'s Disney World, just south of Orlando, was not affected, a spokeswoman said. 

(Additional reporting by Michael Christie in Miami) 

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