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Two killed as heavy rains flood San Antonio streets

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Two women were killed on Saturday as drenching rains in San Antonio triggered floodwaters so strong they swept cars and a city bus off the street and forced the rescue of some 130 people, officials said.

The flooding, which followed torrential rains that brought flash-flood warnings across South Texas, inundated a number of major thoroughfares in San Antonio and collapsed the roof of an apartment complex.

Several dozen people were evacuated after water rose rapidly through a neighborhood near the Mission Espada, one of the 18th century Spanish colonial missions that dot the city's south side along the San Antonio River.

Priscilla Ingle, vice president of the city's Via Metro Transit, said rescue teams had to pull the driver of a city bus and three passengers to safety, and bus service was shut down until the water receded to safer levels.

"The bus was driving down the street when water got under its tires," Ingle said. "This forced the bus off the street as the water rose."

Authorities said they rescued a total of 130 people before the floodwaters began to subside.

A 29-year-old woman was killed in the city when her car was washed into a creek as she tried to drive across a bridge, police said. A male passenger in her car survived.

A second woman, who was in her 60s, died when a flood surge washed her and her car away as firefighters were trying to pull her from the swamped vehicle, San Antonio Fire Department spokesman Christian Bove said.

Neither victim was immediately identified by authorities.

ROOF COLLAPSE

"We ask San Antonians to please stay off the roads and stay at home," Mayor Julian Castro said.

Flash-flood warnings were in effect across south-central Texas, including in San Antonio, through Sunday morning, with downpours of 2 to 4 inches expected on Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Bove said the roof of an apartment complex collapsed from accumulated rainfall and that firefighters had been called to several fires believed to have been caused by lightning.

At one point in midmorning, several dozen major thoroughfares in the city were closed by floodwaters, although most streets were reopened by nightfall.

Bove said his department at one point was receiving about 30 calls an hour from motorists stranded in rapidly rising water.

Parts of San Antonio, home to the historic Alamo, received 9 inches of rain in three to four hours, the National Weather Service said.

As San Antonio began to mop up from the flood, authorities in Wilson County, to the southeast, ordered evacuations as the rising waters moved downstream. There were no immediate reports of injuries there.

The rain comes as central Texas is preparing to move into summer with lake and aquifer levels substantially below normal.

Elsewhere in the state, storms spawned a tornado two hours away in Victoria County, the National Weather Service said.

A sheriff's dispatcher said the twister touched down in a field and there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Gunna Dickson and Peter Cooney)

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