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At least 26 dead after powerful tornado devastates rural Mississippi

( NYPost )

At least 26 people were killed and dozens of others injured after powerful tornadoes ripped through the Mississippi Delta on Friday night, leaving a trail of destruction in its path.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, which released some of the figures, said late Saturday that multiple local and state search and rescue teams were still combing through rubble across the state to determine if there were any more victims.

Thirteen victims were confirmed dead in Sharkey County after the town of Rolling Fork — about 60 miles north of Jackson — appeared to take the worst hit, coroner Angelia Easton confirmed to CNN.

“What we found was devastation all around us,” Mayor Eldridge Walker said.

At least one person was killed in Silver City in neighboring Humphreys County, the local sheriff’s office told WJTV.

And in Yazoo County, two children were taken to Baptist Yazoo hospital in critical condition after becoming trapped in a home.

In the town of Amory, WTVA meteorologist Matt Laubhan got so emotional while tracking the tornado that he turned to prayer on the air.

“We got a new scan here as we speak, “he said. “Oh, man! Like north side of Amory, this is coming in.”

He then put his head down while exhaling and said, “Oh, man! Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen.”

At least 12 tornadoes were reported across Mississippi and Alabama in the past 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service‘s Storm Prediction Center. These included the storms that hit Rolling Fork and Silver City.

The deadliest of the twisters touched down around 9 p.m. before sweeping northeast at 70 mph without weakening as it crossed into Alabama.

Storm reporters claim the tornado that tore through Rolling Fork had a path at least a mile wide, FOX Weather reported.

Walker, Rolling Fork’s mayor, said there were numerous injuries reported around the town and responders were working to get those people to hospitals, although the number of people injured remained unclear.

Aerial footage of Rolling Fork Saturday morning from storm chaser Jordan Hall revealed the extent of the storm’s destruction, with the landscape littered with countless piles, lay heaping with splintered buildings fragments, mangled cars, and tractor-trailers.

The Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital on the west side of Rolling Fork was damaged, WAPT reported.

The Sharkey County Sheriff’s Office in Rolling Fork confirmed reports of gas leaks and people trapped in piles of rubble, according to The Vicksburg News.

Some law enforcement units were also unaccounted for in the county, according to the newspaper.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in the area. In addition to destructive winds, the deadly storm produced golf ball-sized hail.

“You are in a life-threatening situation,” the weather service warned when the storm was closing in. “Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be destroyed. Considerable damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles is likely and complete destruction is possible.”

Morgan County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama reported that responders had helped free a man who had been partly trapped in the mud after a trailer overturned.

Cornel Knight told The Associated Press he was at a relative’s house in Rolling Fork as he watched the “eerily quiet” tornado approach the home from about a half mile away.

He told everyone in the house to take cover in a hallway.

He said the tornado struck another relative’s home across a wide cornfield from where he was, causing a wall to collapse and trapping several people inside.

Rolling Fork is surrounded by an expanse of cotton, corn, and soybean fields and catfish farming ponds.

Earlier Friday, two passengers were killed when a car was swept away and two in southwestern Missouri during torrential rains that were part of a severe weather system.

Four of the six people who were in the car at the time made it out of the water.

In another southwestern Missouri county, the search continued for a woman who was missing after flash flooding from a small river washed her car off the road.

Two others who were in the car were rescued.

More than a half-dozen shelters were opened in the state by emergency officials.

Storm chaser Reed Timmer tweeted that the town was in immediate need of emergency personnel and that he was heading with injured residents of the town to a Vicksburg hospital.

Over 80,000 customers were without power in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee as of Saturday morning, according to

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said on social media that the state was sending additional emergency crews to the area.

“At least twenty-three Mississippians were killed by last night’s violent tornadoes,” the governor tweeted early Saturday. “We know that many more are injured. Search and rescue teams are still active.

“The loss will be felt in these towns forever. Please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends.”

In a later tweet, the governor said he was on his way to Sharkey County. “Devastating damage—as everyone knows. This is a tragedy,” he posted.

He shared pictures of volunteers and first responders working to help those impacted by the storm.

The governor, who declared a state of emergency, also said he had spoken with President Joe Biden about the devastation.

“He assured us FEMA would be there to support our response. The flood of support from governors, businesses, charities, and federal admin has been tremendous—matches the community here on the ground,” Reeves tweeted.

Biden, in a statement, offered full federal support to the state.

“The images from across Mississippi are heartbreaking,” Biden said. “While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know that many of our fellow Americans are not only grieving for family and friends, they’ve lost their homes and businesses.”

“To those impacted by these devastating storms, and to the first responders and emergency personnel working to help their fellow Americans: we will do everything we can to help.” he added. “We will be there as long as it takes.”

Earlier Friday, two passengers were killed when a car was swept away and two in southwestern Missouri during torrential rains that were part of a severe weather system.

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