26 Dead as Tornado Hits Mississippi and Alabama: Recovery Efforts Begin

Mississippi and Alabama are facing a challenging recovery after a series of severe storms and a tornado struck the region, resulting in the loss of 26 lives.

Piles of debris, insulation, damaged vehicles, and home furnishings are all that remain of a mobile home park in Rolling Fork, Mississippi., Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Rogelio V. Solis, AP

The western parts of Mississippi are now covered in debris and rubble after a powerful EF-4 tornado plowed through the state late on Friday, wreaking havoc in its wake.

The tornado uprooted homes from their foundations and flung vehicles through the air, leaving at least 25 people dead in Mississippi alone. One person also lost their life in neighboring Alabama. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported on Saturday that several people were still injured.

Larry, a truck driver in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, shared his harrowing experience of the tornado. “As I was standing in the corner, debris was falling all around me, the roof was coming down in the house,” he said.

Law-enforcement officers climb through debris on a diner looking for survivors early Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Rogelio Solis, AP

On Sunday, President Biden authorized a federal disaster declaration for Mississippi, which provides federal funding for affected counties. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) crews have already been deployed to Mississippi to support state and local emergency responders.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to Mississippi to assess the damage and meet with Gov. Tate Reeves and other officials. Meanwhile, emergency workers are bracing for more severe weather, with thunderstorms, hail, and additional tornadoes forecasted.

Gov. Reeves declared a state of emergency on Saturday and shared photos of rescue workers and others assisting in the recovery effort throughout the day. “Incredibly inspired by how Mississippians have come together in this tragic moment,” he said. “God is good, and our state is strong.”

Survivors are now returning to their homes to search for important items such as car keys and medicine. Rescuers are scouring the rubble to ensure no one is still trapped, while utility workers work tirelessly to restore power. People are also providing food, water, and clothing to those in need.

The powerful tornado that hit on Friday night lasted for over an hour, traveled approximately 170 miles, and was most devastating in Rolling Fork, a predominantly Black town of around 2,000 residents. The tornado tore off the roof of the city hall, damaged the business district, and even toppled the town’s water tower.

In the nearby rural True Light community, Kimberly Berry was one of the fortunate survivors. Although her home was destroyed, she managed to reach a shelter before the tornado struck. “I mean, I can get all this back. I’m not sad. I’m not mad. I’m not going to be depressed,” Berry said. “I’m not going to be none of that because I lost everything, but I gained another day above ground. That’s it. I can’t ask for anything else.”

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