Mississippi tornado kills at least 23 as it rips through southern US states

Mississippi tornado kills at least 23 as it rips through southern US states

At least 23 people have died after a tornado tore through the state of Mississippi on Friday night.

The severe weather has caused damage to buildings and knocked out power in parts of the state.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed there had been 23 deaths with dozens of injuries and four people missing throughout the state.

The agency said in a Twitter post that search and rescue teams from numerous local and state agencies were deployed along with personnel to assist those affected by the tornadoes.

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

The rural towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork reported destruction as the tornado swept northeast at 70mph (113km/h) without weakening, racing towards Alabama.

Damaged building following a tornado in Silver City (via REUTERS)
Damaged building following a tornado in Silver City (via REUTERS)

The Sharkey county sheriff’s office in Rolling Fork reported gas leaks and people trapped in piles of rubble, according to the Vicksburg News. Some law enforcement units were unaccounted for in Sharkey, according to the newspaper.

Storm chaser Reed Timmer posted on Twitter that Rolling Fork was in immediate need of emergency personnel and that he was heading with injured residents of the town to a Vicksburg hospital.

Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker told CNN that his town was essentially wiped out. Video shot as daylight broke showed houses reduced to piles of rubble, cars flipped on their sides and trees stripped of their branches. Occasionally, in the midst of the wreckage, a home would be spared, seemingly undamaged.

“My city is gone. But we are resilient and we are going to come back strong,” he said.

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves said in a Twitter post on Friday night that search and rescue teams were active and that officials were sending more ambulances and emergency assets to those affected.

“Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God’s protection tonight,” the post said. “Watch weather reports and stay cautious through the night, Mississippi!”

Cornel Knight told Associated Press that he, his wife and their three-year-old daughter were at a relative’s home in Rolling Fork when the tornado struck. He said the sky was dark but “you could see the direction from every transformer that blew”.

He said it was “eerily quiet” as that happened. Mr Knight said he watched from a doorway until the tornado was, he estimated, less than a mile away. Then he told everyone in the house to take cover in a hallway.

He said the tornado struck another relative’s home across a wide cornfield from where he was. A wall in that home collapsed and trapped several people inside.

Earlier on Friday a car was swept away and two passengers drowned in south-western Missouri during torrential rains that were part of a severe weather system.

Authorities said six young adults were in the vehicle that was swept away as the car tried to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in the town of Grovespring.