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23 dead amid widespread damage after Mississippi tornadoes

(NewsNation) — Powerful tornadoes tore through parts of the Deep South on Friday night, killing at least 23 people in Mississippi and obliterating buildings in their wake.

Along with the almost 2 dozen deaths, even more people are injured, and four are missing, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change,” the agency wrote.

Reuters reports that destruction from the tornadoes left buildings in rubble, cars turned over on their side, and people climbing through debris in darkness.

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado caused damage about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi. Rural towns Rolling Fork and Silver City reported destruction as the tornado swept northeast at 70 mph without weakening, racing toward Alabama through towns, including Winona and Amory, into the night.

On Friday, NewsNation local affiliate WJTV reported that Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said a lot of homes, his own included, were damaged because of severe weather. People were trapped in their homes, and crews were working to get them out, he added. The Sharkey County Sheriff’s Office in Rolling Fork also said there were people trapped in piles of rubble, as well as gas leaks.

“What we found was devastation all around us,” Walker said on WJTV.

Poweroutage.us showed 11,226 customers out of power in Mississippi, 15,132 without electricity in Alabama, and 22,780 people from neighboring Tennessee in the dark as of noon Saturday.

What blew through the state was a supercell, which is a storm that brews the deadliest tornado and most damaging hail in the United States, according to Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Walker Ashley. A nighttime supercell, Ashley added, is “the worst kind.”

“Numerous” local and state search and rescue teams are on the ground to assist people, MEMA said.

“We cannot say thank you enough to the amount of people helping our state right now,” MEMA said. “Mississippi is resilient and we will get through this.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said Saturday that he’s on his way to Sharkey County “to be with the people hit first.” He put out a state of emergency for all Mississippi counties feeling the storms’ impact.

“Devastating damage—as everyone knows. This is a tragedy,” Reeves said. “We are blessed with brave, capable responders and loving neighbors. Please continue to pray.”

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-Miss.), after touring Rolling Fork and Silver City Friday night, said he plans to support a federal disaster declaration for affected communities.

Right now, Volunteer Mississippi is asking private citizens not to “self-deploy” to the area, but people can donate water or resources to the Rolling Fork Civic Center.

MEMA announced the following shelters are open:

  • Old Amory National Guard Building
    101 S 9th St.
    Amory, MS 38821
  • National Guard Armory
    19719 US 61
    Rolling Fork, MS 39159
  • Humphreys County Multipurpose BLDG
    417 Silver City Road
    Belzoni, MS 39038

Locations are subject to change.

The Associated Press, NewsNation local affiliate WJTV and Reuters contributed to this report.

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