Daunting recovery underway in tornado-devastated Mississippi
ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) — Help began pouring into one of the poorest regions of the United States (US) after a deadly tornado wrought a path of destruction in the Mississippi Delta, even as furious new storms Sunday struck Georgia, where two tigers briefly escaped their badly damaged safari park.
At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through several towns on its hour-long, 170-mile path late Friday. A man was also killed in Alabama after his trailer home flipped over several times.
Search and recovery crews resumed the daunting task of digging through flattened and battered homes, commercial buildings and municipal offices after hundreds of people were displaced.
Jarrod Kunze drove to the hard-hit Mississippi town of Rolling Fork from his home in Alabama, ready to volunteer “in whatever capacity I’m needed.”
“The town is devastated,” Kunze said. “Everything I can see is in some state of destruction.”
Kunze was among volunteers working Sunday morning at a staging area, where bottled water and other supplies were being readied for distribution.
“Sharkey County, Mississippi, is one of the poorest counties in the state of Mississippi, but we’re still resilient,” Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said. “I feel confident that we’re going to come back and build this community back bigger and better for our families and that’s what we’re hoping and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
A tornado reportedly touched down early Sunday in Troup County, Georgia, near the Alabama border, according to the Georgia Mutual Aid Group. Affected areas included the county seat of LaGrange, about 67 miles (108 kilometres) southwest of Atlanta.
“Many buildings damaged, people trapped,” the agency said on Facebook. In nearby West Point, roads, including Interstate Highway 85, were blocked by debris. “If you do not have to get on the roads this morning please do not travel.”
Two tigers “briefly escaped” early Sunday from their enclosures at Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia, after the park sustained extensive tornado damage, the park said on Facebook. “THE TIGERS ARE SAFE!,” it added. “Both have now been found, tranquillised, and safely returned to a secure enclosure.” None of its employees or animals were hurt, it said.
Following Biden’s declaration, federal funding can be used for recovery efforts in Mississippi’s Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties, including temporary housing, home repairs, loans covering uninsured property losses and other individual and business programs, the White House said in a statement.
The twister flattened entire blocks, obliterated houses, ripped a steeple off a church and toppled a municipal water tower.
Based on early data, the tornado received a preliminary EF-4 rating, the National Weather Service office in Jackson said in a tweet. An EF-4 tornado has top wind gusts between 166 mph and 200 mph (265 kph and 320 kph). The Jackson office cautioned it was still gathering information.
In Rolling Fork, a town of 2,000 people, the tornado reduced homes to piles of rubble and flipped cars on their sides. Other parts of the Deep South were digging out from damage caused by other suspected twisters. One man died in Morgan County, Alabama, the sheriff’s department said in a tweet.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a briefing that 25 people were confirmed killed in Mississippi, 55 people were injured and 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. High winds, hail and strong storms were expected for parts of Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.