At least 23 dead as tornado, storms rip through Mississippi
WASHINGTON, United States — At least 23 people died as violent storms and at least one tornado ripped through the US state of Mississippi, tearing off roofs and flattening neighborhoods, officials and residents said Saturday.
The southern state’s emergency management agency said at least four people were missing and dozens were injured, while tens of thousands of people in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee were without power.
“At least 23 Mississippians were killed by last night’s violent tornados. We know that many more are injured. Search and rescue teams are still active,” Governor Tate Reeves said on Twitter.
“The loss will be felt in these towns forever. Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends.”
Confirming the death toll at 23, the emergency management agency cautioned: “Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change.”
Search and rescue operations were underway in Sharkey and Humphreys counties, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of the state capital Jackson, the agency said on Twitter.
“My city is gone,” Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker, whose town is located in Sharkey county, told CNN.
He told CBS affiliate WJTV that when he was able to leave his home, “what we found is devastation all around us.”
Woodrow Johnson, a local official in Humphreys County, told CNN his wife woke him up and they heard what sounded like a train.
“It was a very scary thing,” Johnson said, adding his neighbor’s house, a trailer, was “completely gone.”
The National Weather Service warned residents that as clean-up operations continue, “dangers remain even after the storms move on.”
TV footage showed homes leveled and debris strewn across roads as emergency services attempted to get to those who needed help.
“As far as official damage numbers, we’re not going to have that until morning, daylight time,” said the emergency management agency’s Malary White.
“Our main priority right now, especially for the local first responders, it’s life safety and accounting for the people and making sure they are safe,” she told CBS News affiliate WJTV.
Tornado warnings had been issued in various counties throughout the state on Friday, but by 2:48 am on Saturday, the National Weather Service said the “tornado watch has expired across our forecast area.”
“Additional showers and thunderstorms are expected across our area,” it said on Twitter, adding that they were “not expected to become severe.”
READ: At least 5 dead as tornadoes rip through Alabama, destroying homes
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