At least 22 people were killed and dozens more were injured Sunday when powerful tornadoes swept through eastern Alabama, authorities said, Trend reported citing WhoTV.
The deaths were in Lee County, on the Georgia border, Sheriff Jay Jones said Sunday night. East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, the county seat, said that it was treating more than 40 patients and that an undetermined number of others had been sent to hospitals.
Jones said the ages of the dead hadn’t been fully determined. “We do have some children, unfortunately,” he said, adding that the number of deaths was expected to rise overnight.
The Lee County Emergency Management Agency, or EMA, said the worst of the damage was near the town of Beauregard.
“This is a day of destruction for Lee County,” County Coroner Bill Harris told NBC affiliate WSFA of Montgomery. “We’ve never had a mass fatality situation, that I can remember, like this in my lifetime.”
Gov. Kay Ivey declared a statewide emergency. President Donald Trump urged residents in the region to “be careful and safe.”
The tornadoes touched down amid a severe weather outbreak across the Southeast, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s a widespread storm,” Brian Hastings, director of the Alabama Management Agency, said in an interview with WSFA, who said state EMA and transportation officials were already in Lee County to respond.
“We have historic flooding to the north and historic flooding on the Tombigbee [River], and now this storm system that just went through, and now we’re getting reports of significant damage” in several neighboring counties, Hastings said.
Opelika Fire Chief Byron Prather said several homes had been destroyed, creating serious fire hazards as propane leaked from damaged tanks.
07:00 (GMT+4) At least fourteen people, some of them children, have died after a tornado swept through Lee County Alabama on Sunday, Sheriff Jay Jones said, Trend reported citing Reuters.
Emergency workers were expected to toil into the night, pulling bodies and the injured out of the rubble of hundreds of homes.
“The challenge is the sheer volume of the debris where all the homes were located,” Jones said in an interview with CNN. “It’s the most I’ve seen that I can recall.”
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said that the death toll could rise.
“We’ve still got people being pulled out of rubble,” he told the Birmingham News newspaper early on Sunday evening. “We’re going to be here all night.”
Severe weather unleashed one of numerous possible tornadoes that threatened the Southern United States on Sunday afternoon. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Georgia and Alabama through Sunday evening.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned residents on Twitter that more severe weather might be on the way. She said the state was working to help families who had been impacted.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” Ivey wrote on Twitter.
“Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected.”
The storm left more than 10,000 customers without power, the Birmingham News said, citing the utility Alabama Power.