A deadly Mississippi tornado brings disaster to the US state

  • Sophie Long in Rolling Fork, Mississippi and Antoinette Radford in London
  • BBC News

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WATCH: Trucks pile up on buildings as tornado hits Mississippi

At least 26 people have died in Mississippi and Alabama after tornadoes hit the southern states of the United States.

As search and rescue efforts continue, the Mississippi state government has declared a state of emergency.

At Rolling Fork, the city was almost completely destroyed – crushed cars, bricks and glass debris littered the streets.

One resident told the BBC he was lucky to survive after taking refuge in his bathtub.

Approaching the neighborhood of western Sharkey County, there is nothing out of the ordinary.

The surrounding green farmland is completely untouched, the trees not even shaped by the wind. Then suddenly you see houses in the path of the tornado.

They are completely destroyed.

Homes where family and friends had gathered less than 24 hours before the weekend collapsed.

The wooden frames are cut into pieces. There are upside-down washing machines, but nothing recognizable as having been a kitchen.

Vehicles tottered among the wreckage like toys. There are occasional children’s toys and other signs of the life that lived here hours ago.

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A Rolling Forks local tries to salvage items from a car

The tornado hit in the middle of the night – people were sleeping and they didn’t hear the warnings. For many people, noise is the first sign that something terrible is happening.

Francisco McKnight told the BBC it was a miracle he was alive. The only warning he had was the noise, he said — he had never heard anything like the sound of the wind Friday night and never wanted to again.

He took a look outside and ran into his bathroom and got into the bathtub. That is what saved him, he said.

Only two parts of the bathroom walls of his house still stand.

He said the tornado lasted five to 10 minutes, and he sat in the tub as the rest of his house was cleared. Currently he is staying in one of the hostels set up in that area.

He doesn’t know what he will do next, but says he will rebuild his life somehow.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves visited Silver City and Winona on Saturday to meet with residents affected by the hurricane’s fury.

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

Search and rescue efforts will continue in Mississippi as storms and large hail are forecast to hit parts of Alabama and Georgia early Sunday morning.

US President Joe Biden also extended his support to the storm-hit area. He described the images coming out of Mississippi as “heartbreaking” and said the federal government would “do whatever we can to help.”

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WATCH: Devastation after tornado sweeps across Mississippi and Alabama

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