At least 23 killed in Mississippi tornado, storms

At least 23 people have been killed after a tornado and severe storms swept through the US state of Mississippi.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) said there were “dozens injured” and four people missing as search and rescue teams combed through the destruction looking for survivors after the storm struck Silver City in Western Mississippi.

“Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change,” it said, referring to the death toll.

Search and rescue operations were under way in Sharkey and Humphreys counties, about 110km (70 miles) north of state capital Jackson, according to broadcaster ABC.

“We have activated medical support – surging more ambulances and other emergency assets for those affected. Search and rescue is active,” Governor Tate Reeves said on Twitter, warning residents to “watch weather reports and stay cautious”.

Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi said that the town of Rolling Fork, about half an hour southwest of Silver City, “really took a direct hit”.

“These are rural towns in the Mississippi Delta, a good proportion of mobile homes, a good proportion of people living below the poverty line, enormous devastation.

“When these extreme weather events happen in the evening, people often don’t hear the warnings, they’re asleep, and therefore it could cause many more fatalities,” he said.

“People are still trapped within their homes with search and rescue operations underway.”

‘It’s gone’
Resident Brandy Showah told CNN: “I’ve never seen anything like this … This was a very great small town, and now it’s gone.”

TV footage showed homes levelled 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 MEMA’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 2:48am, (07:48 GMT) on Saturday, the National Weather Service for Jackson 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”.

In January, at least seven people were killed in Alabama and Georgia after a massive storm system whipping up severe winds and spawning tornadoes hit some southern states in the United States.

Last month, a series of tornadoes lashed the central US, leaving a trail of wreckage and injuries as winter storms cause extreme weather around the country.



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