Tornado kills over 20 people in Alabama | News | DW | 04.03.2019
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Tornado kills over 20 people in Alabama

At least 23 people, some of them children, have been confirmed dead after a tornado tore across the southeastern US state of Alabama. Authorities say they expect the death toll to rise.

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Tornadoes cause catastrophic damage in Alabama

A tornado that ripped through Lee County, Alabama, late Sunday killed more than 20 people, downed phone towers and flattened buildings, officials said. 

"Unfortunately our toll, as far as fatalities, does stand at 23 at the current time," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said of the death toll. A number of people were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. 

Lee County coroner Bill Harris said there were children among the dead.

"We've still got people being pulled out of rubble," he said. "We're going to be here all night."

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A fallen cell tower blocks the Route 280 highway in Lee County

A fallen cell tower blocks the Route 280 highway in Lee County

Search put on hold

As night fell, emergency crews were scouring the rubble for those still unaccounted for in the hard-hit community of Beauregard, east of the state capital Montgomery. But they had to call off the search overnight when conditions became too dangerous.

"The challenge is the sheer volume of the debris where all the homes were located," Jones told CNN. "It's the most I've seen that I can recall."

He said the tornado appeared to have traveled right through Beauregard's center, carving a path of destruction at least half a mile (0.8 kilometers) wide.

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A funnel cloud forms over Byron in Georgia

Authorities in several southeastern states issued tornado warnings on Sunday

Take cover

Authorities said multiple twisters were unleashed by a vast storm system that moved across several southeastern states on Sunday. 

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for different parts of the region, including Lee County, during the day, urging residents to take cover, move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building, and avoid windows.

It said the first twister to hit the county had a wind speed of at least 218 kilometers (135 miles) per hour.

More than 6,000 homes were left without power in Alabama, according to PowerOutage.us, while 16,000 suffered outages in neighboring Georgia.

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Rescue workers walking through an area hit by the tornado

Rescue workers rushed to parts of Lee County where mobile homes were flattened

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned residents on Twitter that more severe weather might be on the way.

"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today," she wrote. "Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected."

She added that she was extending the state of emergency issued last month to deal with flooding.

nm/bw (AFP, Reuters, AFP)

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