Wednesday 21 February 2018

At least 15 dead as tornadoes wreak havoc in the US south

Shanise McMorris cries at the remains of her home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Image: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
Shanise McMorris cries at the remains of her home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Image: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Sonya Hillis Georgia

The governor of Georgia has declared a state of emergency in seven counties after 15 people were killed in violent tornado storms, with the prospect of more bad weather to come.

A tornado blew through a mobile home park in rural Cook County in southern Georgia - sheering off siding, upending homes and killing seven people.

The tornado "levelled" the park before dawn yesterday and emergency responders searched for survivors for hours after the twister struck, said coroner Tim Purvis. He said the park had about 40 mobile homes, and roughly half were destroyed. The area was cordoned off by police.

Not far from the mobile home park, 19-year-old Jenny Bullard wore a sling on her injured arm as she combed through the rubble of her family's brick house. All that remained standing yesterday afternoon was the master bedroom and parts of the kitchen.

"It's a horrible tragedy," Ms Bullard said. "But all this stuff can be replaced. We can't replace each other. We're extremely lucky."

Two of yesterday's deaths occurred when a mobile home was struck by an apparent tornado in Brooks County, which moved the home roughly 100 yards.

"A tornado hit a mobile home, picked it up and put it in the middle of Highway 122," said Brooks County Coroner Michael Miller.

President Donald Trump said he had spoken to Georgia governor Nathan Deal and "expressed our sincere condolences for the lives taken".

"Tornadoes were vicious and powerful and strong, and they suffered greatly," Mr Trump said during a White House ceremony where he was swearing in aides. "So we'll be helping out the state of Georgia."

Several homes appeared to be destroyed along on a road within about 3km of the mobile home park, with bricks scattered on the ground, and pine trees uprooted and snapped in half. The tops of broken utility poles lay alongside the road.

Georgia's governor declared a state of emergency in seven southern Georgia counties, freeing up state resources to assist with recovery efforts.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Georgians suffering from the storm's impact," Mr Deal said.

In addition to seven deaths in Cook County, four people were killed in adjoining counties yesterday. Another four people were killed in Mississippi by a tornado on Saturday, bringing the weekend death toll to 15.

The National Weather Service said southern Georgia, northern Florida and the corner of southeastern Alabama were due to face more forceful tornadoes late last night, in addition to damaging winds and large hail.

Irish Independent

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