At least seven people have been killed in Alabama and Georgia after a massive storm system whipping up severe winds and spawning tornadoes hit some southern states in the United States.
Authorities said a clearer picture of the extent of the damage and a search for additional victims would be possible on Friday, when clear conditions were expected.
The strong winds and heavy rain damaged homes and left tens of thousands of customers without power in parts of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she was “sad” to learn that six people were killed in the state due to the storms.
I am sad to have learned that six Alabamians were lost to the storms that ravaged across our state. My prayers are with their loved ones and communities. We are far too familiar with devastating weather, but our people are resilient. We will get through it and be stronger for it.
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) January 13, 2023
The deaths took place in Autauga County, deputy director of emergency services Gary Weaver told AFP news agency.
A tornado touched down in Dallas County as well, ripping roofs off buildings and causing “significant damage”, according to Selma Mayor James Perkins, who called on residents to stay off roads and keep away from downed power lines.
About 40,000 customers were without power in Alabama on Thursday night, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide.
‘Worst I’ve seen’
In Selma, an estimated 40 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that cut a 32km (20 miles) path across two rural communities, Ernie Baggett, the county’s emergency management director, said.
At least 12 people were taken to hospitals by emergency responders, Baggett told The Associated Press news agency. He said crews were focused on Thursday night on cutting through downed trees to look for people who may need help.
“This is the worst that I’ve seen here in this county,” Baggett said of the damage.
In Georgia, a passenger died when a tree fell on a vehicle in Jackson, Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue said. In the same county southeast of Atlanta, the storm appeared to have knocked a freight train off its tracks, officials said.
Officials in Griffin, south of Atlanta, told local news outlets that multiple people had been trapped inside an apartment complex after trees fell on it.
School systems in at least six Georgia counties cancelled classes on Friday.