At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured as a tornado and strong thunderstorms ripped across Mississippi in the United States late on Friday (Mar 24), the state's emergency management agency said.
Four people were missing as search and rescue teams combed through the destruction looking for survivors after the storm struck Silver City, a town of 200 people in western Mississippi, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said in a series of tweets.
"Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change," it said, referring to the death toll.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves confirmed the death toll.
"We know that many more are injured," Reeves wrote on Twitter. "Search and rescue teams are still active. The loss will be felt in these towns forever."
Search and rescue teams were also out in Rolling Fork, a town of 1,700 people that bore the brunt of the tornado, CNN reported.
"My city is gone, but we are resilient," Rolling Fork Mayor Eldridge Walker said on CNN. "We are going to come back strong."
According to Walker, 12 of the people who died were in Rolling Fork. He added that several people were trapped in their homes. "Rescue efforts are happening as we speak, they resumed early this morning."
The twister left a trail of damage for more than 160km (100 miles). Television images showed uprooted trees, houses ripped apart and damaged motor vehicles. Many areas were without electricity.
"We tried to get ourselves into the middle part of the house and we did, we got in there and obviously it was coming right behind us because as soon as we got in there, we heard a big boom and didn't hear anything else for a little while," an unidentified resident of Winona told ABC News affiliate WTVA.
"So we walked out and then just came out to about 10 trees down in our yard."
A Rolling Fork resident, Brandy Showah, also told CNN that the town was gone. "I’ve never seen anything like this," she said, adding that her grandmother's house suffered damage.
"My friend was trapped in her home a few houses down, but we got her out," Showah said, adding that people who lived next to her grandmother were still trapped in their houses.
Todd Terrell, who heads a volunteer rescuers group called United Cajun Navy, told ABC News that Rolling Fork was "pretty much devastated" and many people remained trapped in their homes.
Terrell compared the destruction to a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, that killed 161 people in 2011.
At least 24 reports of tornadoes were issued to the National Weather Service on Friday night and into Saturday morning by storm chasers and observers.
The reports stretched from the western edge of Mississippi north through the centre of the state and into Alabama.
Photographs of the destruction published by news networks showed entire buildings left in rubble and cars turned over on their sides as people climbed through the debris in darkness.
"Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God’s protection tonight," the governor, Reeves, said in a tweet. "We have activated medical support - surging more ambulances and other emergency assets for those affected."