Mississippi tornado kills 25 and brings devastation to US stateon March 25, 2023 at 10:32 pm

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Powerful wind and hail the size of golf balls brought destruction to the US state on Friday night.

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Search and rescue efforts are under way after one of the deadliest tornadoes to have ever hit the US state of Mississippi.

At least 25 people have died following Friday night’s tornado, with more thought to have been trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

The twister caused devastation in several rural towns, tearing down trees and power lines.

Several southern states are also braced for powerful storms.

The storm system which ripped through Mississippi produced a tornado that has caused catastrophic damage to communities across the state. The biggest twister obliterated dozens of buildings in several small towns, flipping cars on their sides and toppling power lines.

The state’s emergency management agency said dozens of people were injured in the storms, and four people who were reported missing overnight have now been accounted for.

The tornado also stretched into neighbouring Alabama, where one man has died after being trapped in his mobile home, according to Morgan County Sherriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, the small town of Rolling Fork, located in Sharkey County in western Mississippi, has essentially been wiped out, according to its mayor.

“My city is gone,” Mayor Eldridge Walker told CNN. “But we’re resilient and we’re going to come back.”

He added that lots of families in his community were “affected and hurting”, and all he could see was “devastation”.

Rolling Fork residents said windows were blown out of the back of their homes.

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

Drone footage of Rolling Fork, shared with the BBC, shows the devastation inflicted on the town. Trucks and trees are shown piled on top of buildings, with detritus scattered over large areas.

Mississippi map

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

He said the tornado struck another relative’s house, where a wall collapsed and trapped several people inside.

Mississippi state governor Tate Reeves has visited Silver City and Winona to meet with affected residents who had been hit by the tornado’s fury.

Sharing an update on Twitter, Mr Reeves described the situation as a “tragedy”, writing: “We are blessed with brave, capable responders and loving neighbours. Please continue to pray.”

US President Joe Biden described the images coming out of Mississippi as “heartbreaking”, adding that the federal government “will do everything we can to help”.

“We will be there as long as it takes. We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover,” he said in a statement.

It is not yet clear whether one or several tornadoes hit the area on Friday night. Although yesterday the National Weather Service warned that several tornadoes were forecast, it is possible the devastation was caused by a “skipping tornado” – a single twister that lifts from the surface only to touch down again.

Sam Emmerson from the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma said that the “extremely high-calibre” tornado lofted debris above 30,000ft (9144m).

One local weather forecaster, concerned at the strength of a tornado about to hit the town of Amory, momentarily paused his TV forecast to offer a prayer for the residents of the town.

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