|The remains of a tornado-hit mobile home
© AFP Les Neuhaus
Aside from those states, the twisters left 34 dead in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, and five in Virginia, according to state officials.
Families picked through the remains of homes, businesses and schools, bearing witness to scenes of devastation more common in war zones or after earthquakes.
In a bid to maintain order, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox ordered a curfew, lasting from dusk until 8:00 am, for the second night. A police precinct was among the buildings damaged.
A sign on one door bluntly warned potential intruders what awaits them: “I will shoot you.”
States of emergency were declared from central Oklahoma to Georgia on the eastern seaboard, and governors called out the National Guard — including 2,000 troops in Alabama — to help with the rescue and clean-up operations.
“We had a major catastrophic event here in Alabama with the outbreak of numerous long-track tornadoes,” said Governor Bentley.
Rescue workers battled through the day searching for missing people and trying to rescue survivors still trapped in the rubble.
Many homes looked like they had been blown inside out, with the walls torn down and furniture spilling into the street.
In a parking lot at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where 36 people were confirmed dead, tornadoes smashed 20 cars, leaving many piled on top of one another.
“I don’t want to think now on how much I lost,” Robert Mitton told AFP. “I hope we can get some help from the government. I live very close, my house is very damaged, but my family is fine.”
Owen Simmons, who works in a furniture store, pointed to a black cross and a zero below painted on the side of his house.
“It means that the rescue team has already checked my home and they found no victims. That’s what really matters.”
© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license