A tornado hitting Oklahoma in 2010.

A tornado hitting Oklahoma in 2010. Image by NOAA Photo Library / CC BY 2.0

A line of tornadoes battered several small communities in Texas and Arkansas, killing at least five people.

A couple, in their late 20s or early 30s, died when a twister hit their mobile home late on Sunday in the Arkansas town of Nashville.

Michael and Melissa Mooneyhan were trying to protect their daughter when the parents’ trailer flipped over and “exploded,” Howard County Coroner John Gray said.

“It’s a miracle that little girl survived,” he said. The girl, who is about 18-months-old, was taken to hospital and later released to relatives.

In neighbouring Texas, a tornado pummelled the small town of Van, damaging about 30% of the community, according to Chuck Allen, fire marshal and emergency management co-ordinator for Van Zandt County.

The authorities confirmed at least two deaths.

For much of the day, eight people were still unaccounted for in Van, which has a population of 2,600. But by late last night, everyone on the missing list had been accounted for, said Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Jean Dark.

She said that just to be safe, cadaver dogs were checking the area.

Officials confirmed that the tornado was an EF3, with winds from 135mph to 140mph, Mr Allen said.

Rescuers went door to door checking on neighbours. Damage was widespread, with trees uprooted and numerous homes and buildings flattened or ripped apart.

At least 42 people were injured, according to two East Texas hospitals. Four patients were in critical condition.

Preliminary reports indicate 20 to 25 tornadoes formed on Sunday in South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas, according to meteorologist Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Centre in Norman, Oklahoma.

(Press Association)