At least 23 people died from violent storms and at least one tornado that hit the southern US state of Mississippi late on Friday, authorities said Saturday.
The state’s emergency management agency, MEMA, said at least four people were missing and dozens were injured, while thousands of customers in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee were without power.
“At least 23 Mississippians were killed by violent tornadoes last night. We know many more are injured. Search and rescue teams remain active,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said on Twitter.
“The loss will be felt in these towns forever. Please pray that the hand of God be upon all those who lost family and friends.”
The MEMA fears that the number of deaths, “unfortunately”, will increase.
Search and rescue operations are underway in Sharkey and Humphreys counties, about 110 kilometers north of Jackson, the state capital, the agency said on Twitter.
“My town is gone,” Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker in Sharkey County told WJTV: “What we found is devastation all around us.”
– “Scary” –
Woodrow Johnson, a Humphreys County official, told CNN his wife startled him awake at the noise. “It was a very scary thing,” Johnson said, adding that his neighbor’s house, a trailer, had “completely disappeared.”
The National Weather Service warned residents Saturday that “hazards will persist even after the storms have gone.”
Television images showed flattened houses and debris strewn on the roads.
“As for the official damage figures, we won’t have them until tomorrow,” said MEMA’s Malary White.
The Jackson National Weather Service reported early Saturday that the tornado watch had passed. “Additional showers and thunderstorms are expected throughout our area,” he tweeted, adding that they are not “expected to be severe.”