At least nine dead after US tornadoes hit southern states – as tens of thousands left without power

At least nine people have been killed in the US after dozens of tornadoes struck the southern states of Alabama and Georgia.

Rescue teams are working to clear debris and find any survivors across 14 counties in the two states, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reporting at least 35 possible tornadoes.

One carved a path of 20 miles (32km) through two rural communities in Alabama on Thursday, before the weather system tracked east to Atlanta in Georgia.

Seven people have died in Alabama’s Autauga County, while at least 12 people were seriously injured and 40 homes were destroyed – some mobile homes were reportedly blown into the air.

A flag is draped on the remnants of a home destroyed by a tornado on County Road 140 in Old Kingston, Alabama, U.S. January 13, 2023. Jake Crandall/USA Today Network via REUTERS NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
Old Kingston in Autauga County, Alabama, after a storm swept through. Pic: Jake Crandall/USA Today Network/Reuters
An aerial view shows damage after a tornado ripped through Selma, Alabama, U.S. January 12, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media. Kenneth Martin/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
An aerial view of Selma in Alabama. Pic: Kenneth Martin/Reuters

In Selma, a tornado cut a path through the city’s downtown area, collapsing brick buildings, uprooting oak trees and throwing cars down the road.

No deaths were reported there, but several people were seriously injured, with officials hoping to get an aerial view of the city.

Footage recorded by an employee at an Alabama recycling plant showed workers being pushed back into the building after a large piece of sheet metal smashed into the front.

More on Alabama

In Georgia, governor Brian Kemp said a local government worker was killed responding to storm damage, while in Butt’s County, south-east of Atlanta, a five-year-old child died after a tree fell on a car they were in. An adult in the vehicle was in a critical condition.

In Griffin, a tree collapsed on a funeral home while a ceremony was ongoing, leading mourners to take shelter in offices and toilets.

Crews work to clear a fallen tree in Griffin after a tornado hit the Georgia city. Pic: AP
Crews work to clear a fallen tree in Griffin after a tornado hit the Georgia city. Pic: AP

‘Total shock’

“When we came out, we were in total shock,” said Sha-Meeka Peterson-Smith, the funeral home’s chief operational officer. “We heard everything, but didn’t know how bad it actually was.”

It fell straight through the front of the building, destroying a viewing room and a lounge. No one was hurt.

Elsewhere in the city, several people were trapped in a block of flats after trees fell on it, while a local craft store lost some of its roof, and a man had to be cut loose after a tree came down on his home.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were left without electricity in the storms’ paths, according to

The cause of the storm is likely to be a combination of the La Nina weather cycle, a warming of the Gulf of Mexico, and the increased shift eastwards of tornado activity.

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