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Storms batter New York, 4 dead

Severe thunderstorms packing strong winds rolled through central New York, killing four people, destroying or damaging numerous houses and knocking out power to more than 70,000 utility customers, officials said Wednesday.

The deaths occurred in the rural town of Smithfield, between Syracuse and Utica, after the storms hit at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Madison County Sheriff's Office said.

In Smithfield, at least four homes were completely destroyed and numerous others were damaged, Undersheriff John Ball said. More information is expected to be released at a news conference Wednesday morning

Early Wednesday, about 72,000 homes and businesses were without power, most in central and northern New York.

Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley did not identify the victims. He told The Post-Standard of Syracuse he was still notifying their families.

The storm destroyed four homes, ripping one from its foundation and tossing it onto another house, the newspaper reported. Three other houses nearby also were damaged. The National Weather Service said the winds were likely stronger than 60 mph.

Riley said in a television interview late Tuesday that search dogs were being used to go over the rubble at the Smithfield site and that neighbours were being interviewed.

"We're just picking up parts of the house to see if anybody is underneath them," he said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Joanne LaBounty said investigators will be in the area to determine if a tornado touched down.

The spokesman for the emergency management office said there was widespread damage in the towns of Sullivan and Lenox, between Syracuse and Utica.

Injuries and damage from fast-moving storms Tuesday was not limited to New York state.

In Maryland, a tree fell at a summer camp during a strong thunderstorm, killing one child and injuring six others. The children at the River Valley Ranch camp in Manchester were headed to a shelter when a tree fell on them.

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