Nine dead as storms rip across South America

Fierce storms packing 140-kilometer (87-mile) an hour winds tore across the heart of South America, killing five people in Paraguay, two in Uruguay and two in Bolivia.

The Roque Alonso suburb of the Paraguayan capital Asuncion was devastated by the storm and widespread looting was reported in its aftermath.

Four police cadets died and 15 were injured when the roof of their dormitory caved in, and a 16-year-old boy died at a shopping center when a water tank fell on him.

"Roque Alonso has to be built all over again," police commander Heriberto Marmol said.

Dozens of injured people in the small, mostly rural nation flooded Asuncion hospitals and traffic was gridlocked in parts of the city.

A crowd of thousands braved torrential rain for a concert by the rock band Scorpions only to see the show canceled.

Nationwide, at least 5,000 homes were destroyed and more than 80 people injured in storm-related incidents, Aldo Saldivar of the national emergency response center said.

The storm also blew the roof off homes and barns in Neembucu, south of the capital, and knocked out power in the town of Encarnacion for many hours.

The wind was less severe further south in Argentina and Uruguay, around 100 kilometers (62 mph) per hour, but strong gusts still ripped off roofs and toppled trees and power lines, plunging some regions into darkness.

A woman and her daughter were killed when heavy rains swiftly washed out a road in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, firefighters said.

And two people were killed in Uruguay when a suddenly rain-swollen creek swallowed their car, officials said. Ports also were locked down in Uruguay until early Thursday, and at least 462 people had to leave their homes.

Uruguay's national emergency committee chief Diego Canepa said 140,000 customers had lost power -- more than 10 percent of the country.

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