Photos: Survivors sift through wreckage after EF-4 tornado hits Mississippi Delta

Terrifying images: deadly tornado flattens homes, wrecks commercial buildings in Mississippi Delta. Biden declares emergency, Pope Francis offers special prayer.

U.S. President Joe Biden early Sunday morning issued an emergency declaration for Mississippi, enabling federal funding for Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe, and Sharkey counties, the areas hardest hit by a deadly tornado that struck the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest regions in the United States, on Friday.

At least 25 people were killed and dozens more injured in Mississippi as the massive storm ripped through several locations for an hour. One man died in Alabama after his mobile home flipped over several times.

Search and recovery teams resumed the Herculean task of digging through the wreckage of flattened and damaged homes, commercial buildings, and municipal offices Sunday after hundreds of people were displaced.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator was scheduled to visit the state on Sunday to assess the destruction.

At least 25 people were killed. Photo: AP
At least 25 people were killed. Photo: AP

FEMA coordinating agent John Boyle was left in charge of overseeing federal recovery operations. According to a White House statement, Biden’s emergency declaration allows federal funding for recovery efforts such as temporary housing, home repairs, loans to cover losses on uninsured properties, and other programs for businesses and individuals.

The tornado flattened entire blocks, wrecked homes, broke a church steeple, and toppled a municipal water tank. As recovery efforts began, the National Weather Service warned of the risk of more severe weather Sunday, including windstorms, large-caliber hail, and the possibility of tornadoes in eastern Louisiana, south-central Mississippi, and south-central Alabama.

According to early data, the tornado received an initial rating of EF-4, the Jackson office of the National Weather Service tweeted Saturday night. According to the service, an EF-4 tornado has maximum gusts between 265 and 320 kilometers per hour. The Jackson office cautioned that it was still gathering information about the tornado.

The tornado devastated part of the town of Rolling Fork, population 2,000, where it reduced homes to piles of rubble, flipped cars on their sides, and toppled the water tank. Other areas in the southern United States removed the remnants of other potential tornadoes. One man died in Alabama’s Morgan County, police in the region tweeted.

Other areas of the southern United States removed the remnants of other possible tornadoes. Photo credit: AP.
Other areas of the southern United States removed the remnants of possible tornadoes. Photo credit: AP.

Pope Francis offered a special prayer

Pope Francis offered a special prayer for people in Mississippi “hit by a devastating tornado” during his weekly Sunday blessing outside the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square.

“I don’t know how anybody survived,” said Rodney Porter, who lives 20 miles south of Rolling Fork. Porter said he immediately drove to the scene to help after the storm hit Friday night. When he arrived, he found “total devastation” and said he smelled natural gas as people could be heard calling for help in the dark.