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Death toll rises in Christmas tornadoes across the United States

Several consecutive days of severe weather systems have resulted in more than a dozen tornadoes across a number of US states. At least 14 people have died during the storms.

Meteorologists said that unseasonably warm weather had caused storms across the US, resulting in at least seven deaths in the state of Mississippi, three in Tennessee and one in Arkansas. The extent of the destruction spread from Alabama in the south all the way to Illinois in the north, hitting several states along a corridor colloquially referred to as "tornado alley."

The storms left houses wiped out throughout the region as many gathered for celebrations on Christmas Day. Power lines, trees and mobile phone towers were also toppled.

While the peak of tornado season in the US occurs during the spring, severe storms including tornadoes can happen at any time.

Mississippi worst hit state

More than a dozen tornadoes were reported in six states, with the southern state of Mississippi hardest hit. Seven people were confirmed dead, while a further 60 were reported injured, said the state's emergency management agency, adding that one person was still missing. Among the Mississippi dead was a seven-year-old boy.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in seven counties after the storms caused widespread damage. Georgia's governor also declared a state of emergency in counties affected by the severe weather.

Meanwhile three of the six people killed in storms in neighboring Tennessee were confirmed to have been found in a car submerged in a creek, according to the Columbia Police Department. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the deceased were a 19-year-old female and two 22-year-old males, while verifying that the deaths were related to the adverse weather conditions.

Continuing danger

Despite the severe weather front weakening, Alabama residents reported a tornado striking the city of Birmingham. Reuters news agency described "significant damage" to the southwestern portion of town, based on information from a National Weather Service forecaster.

Meteorologists warned that severe weather was still possible in several states, highlighting especially Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma. They added that flash floods in the US southeast were also a possibility.

ss/gsw (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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