Tornadoes Ravage the South - Toll Nears 300
2011 04 29
By Campbell Robertson and Kim Severson | NYTimes.com
A day after enduring a terrifying bombardment of storms that killed hundreds across the South and spawned tornadoes that razed neighborhoods and even entire towns, people from Texas to Virginia to Georgia searched through rubble for survivors on Thursday and tried to reclaim their own lives.
Aerial photo of neighbourhood in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo: Dusty, AP
At least 285 people across six states died in the storms, with more than half — 195 people — in Alabama. This college town, the home of the University of Alabama, has in some places been shorn to the slab, and accounts for at least 36 of those deaths.
Thousands have been injured, and untold more have been left homeless, hauling their belongings in garbage bags or rooting through disgorged piles of wood and siding to find anything salvageable.
While Alabama was hit the hardest, the storm spared few states across the South. Thirty-four people were reported dead in Tennessee, 33 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, 7 in Virginia and one in Kentucky. With search and rescue crews still climbing through debris and making their way down tree-strewn country roads, the toll is expected to rise.
“History tells me estimating deaths is a bad business,” said W. Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, in a conference call with reporters.
Cries could be heard into the night here on Wednesday, but on Thursday hope was dwindling. Mayor Walt Maddox said that the search and rescue operation would go for 24 to 48 more hours, before the response pivoted its focus to recovery.
“They’re looking for five kids in this rubble here,” said Lathesia Jackson-Gibson, 33, a nurse, pointing to the incoherent heap of planks and household appliances sitting next to the muddled guts of her own house. “They’re mostly small kids.”
President Obama announced that he was coming to Alabama on Friday afternoon, saying in a statement that the federal government had pledged its assistance.
Gov. Robert Bentley toured the state by helicopter along with federal officials, tracking a vast scar that stretched from Birmingham to his hometown, Tuscaloosa. He declared Alabama “a major, major disaster.”
“As we flew down from Birmingham, the track is all the way down, and then when you get in Tuscaloosa here it’s devastating,” Mr. Bentley said at an afternoon news conference, with an obliterated commercial strip as a backdrop.
An enormous response operation was under way across the South, with emergency officials working alongside churches, sororities and other volunteer groups. In Alabama, more than 2,000 National Guard troops have been deployed.
Article from: nytimes.com
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Video from: YouTube.com
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