At least six dead as tornadoes hit Mississippi

WASHINGTON (AFP) – At least six people were killed when tornadoes ripped through Mississippi last Sunday, officials said, prompting the southern state to declare an emergency.

The tornadoes caused “catastrophic” damage, according to United States (US) media, and prompted the National Weather Service to issue its highest level of tornado alert.

Governor Tate Reeves tweeted that he had declared a state of emergency “to protect the health and safety of Mississippians in response to the severe tornadoes and storms hitting across the state”.

“We are mobilising all resources available to protect our people and their property,” Reeves said, telling residents “you are not alone”.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported that all six deaths occurred in the southern part of the state.

“These are initial reports and will continue to update when info becomes available,” the agency tweeted.

The Storm Prediction Center said it expected “severe thunderstorms” to continue through the night in Mississippi, as well as in the neighbouring states of Alabama and Georgia.

“Strong tornadoes, widespread damaging winds, and large hail are all possible,” the centre added.

Last Sunday, Reeves urged residents to take the “severe storms very seriously”.

“Please take precautions to keep your family safe.” He later retweeted a message from the state disaster agency reminding people to cover their noses and mouths and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus if they had to go to public storm shelters.