Tornadoes bring death, destruction in southern US

Washington (AFP) –


Tornadoes ripped through the southern United States, killing at least 32 people and leaving behind splintered buildings and downed powerlines, officials and US media said Monday.

Twisters caused catastrophic damage Easter Sunday and early Monday morning as storms moved through a region stretching from Texas to Georgia, prompting the National Weather Service to issue its highest level of tornado alert.

Images showed lines of smashed, roofless houses where tornadoes had blasted through, many homes just piles of rubble sitting atop foundations.

Aircraft parked at a regional airport in Monroe, Louisiana were piled on top of each other.

"By the grace of God, early reports show only a few minor injuries," Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said on Twitter, and the city's account later posted pictures of downed power lines.

In neighboring Mississippi, however, at least 11 people were killed, according to the state's emergency management agency.

The Weather Channel said at least 32 people had died across the region, combining local tolls.

There were nine people who died in South Carolina, the outlet reported, citing the state's governor Henry McMaster, and they reported one death in North Carolina.

Seven people were reported to have been killed when tornadoes hit a mobile home park near the Georgia-Tennessee border.

"There's been loss of life, there's been significant loss of property," Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said Monday, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The National Weather Service in the state found damage caused by winds estimated to be up to 145 miles (235 kilometers) per hour.

The Weather Channel reported one person in Arkansas was killed when a tree fell on a house, plus two other deaths in Alabama.

- 'Horrible, destructive power' -

US President Donald Trump offered his "warmest condolences" to those affected.

"My administration will do everything possible to help those communities get back on their feet," he said, promising that the Federal Emergency Management Association was already offering assistance.

"It's a tough deal," he said. "It was a bad grouping of tornadoes -- something incredible, the horrible, destructive power."

Over 1.3 million electricity customers were without power after the storms went through, reported PowerOutage.US.

The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana declared states of emergency.

"The damage is devastating," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Twitter.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves tweeted that he had declared a state of emergency "to protect the health and safety of Mississippians in response to the severe tornadoes and storms hitting across the state."

"We are mobilizing all resources available to protect our people and their property," Reeves said, telling residents "you are not alone."

Earlier on Sunday, Reeves urged residents to take the "severe storms very seriously."

"Please take precautions to keep your family safe."

He later retweeted a message from the state disaster agency reminding people to cover their noses and mouths and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus if they had to go to public storm shelters.