At least two and as many as five tornadoes hit an area of eastern Alabama near the Georgia border in the space of a few hours on Sunday afternoon, with some of the worst damage in the tiny community of Beauregard, according to the National Weather Service.
Mobile homes were tossed on their sides and ripped open, their contents strewn on the ground, live television images showed. Pieces of homes hung from trees that were not flattened by the storm.
More than 50 people were reported injured and the death toll is expected to rise, authorities said, which could make the storms deadlier than the tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013, killing 24 people.
"It looks almost as if someone took a giant knife and just scraped the ground. There are slabs where homes formerly stood, debris everywhere, trees are snapped," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told a morning news conference. "I've not seen this level of destruction ever in my experience in Lee County."
One of the dead was a 6-year-old child, Jones said.
Two of the injured were in critical condition and at least 20 people were missing, Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told CNN.
"FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes," U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Temperatures in the state fell to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 Celsius) on Monday, leaving those without heat struggling with the cold.
The death toll was more than double the 10 people killed by tornadoes in the United States for all of 2018, according to government data.
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