Mississippi officials confirmed the deaths of 23 people after a destructive tornado and thunderstorms swept through the area on Friday.
Local and federal authorities say the storms and tornado left a trail of destruction for more than 100 miles. Dozens of injuries have been reported, as well as missing people.
Search and rescue operations were underway in Sharkey and Humphreys counties, Mississippi’s Emergency Management Agency announced Friday. The agency issued a series of tornado warnings throughout the state, ABC News reported.
“Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God’s protection tonight,” Gov. Tate Reeves posted on Twitter. “We have activated medical support — surging more ambulances and other emergency assets for those affected. Search, and rescue is active.”
Thunderstorms slammed the state late Friday, and a tornado was reported around 8:50 p.m. in the area of Silver City and Rolling Fork, the National Weather Service said.
Rolling Fork was “pretty much devastated,” United Cajun Navy President Todd Terrell told the outlet.
“Houses gone. Gas stations destroyed. Trees, power lines blocking entrances everywhere. Stray animals. People wandering the streets clearly in shock. We saw lot of first responders as well. Lots of people out there in the community helping, police, fire, rescue, other storm chasers. There were a lot of people on the ground helping,” O’Neal, a storm chaser who was on the ground in Rolling Fork, said in an interview on “GMA.”
Jourdan Hartshorn, a Mississippi coordinator for the United Cajun Navy, compared Rolling Fork’s description to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, saying most of the buildings were damaged or destroyed, apart from some facilities on the outskirts of town.
“It’s bad out here,” Hartshorn said. “It’s literally devastation. Ground Zero.”
People were urged to stay away from Silver City unless they have family there. The area was described as “chaotic,” with traffic making it difficult for rescue crews to do their jobs.
“Please be advised, Silver City has been hit really, really hard with a tornado,” a video on Facebook said.