A dangerous weekend weather system has killed at least 16 people in the U.S. South. U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged federal assistance for the affected areas, and Georgia has declared a state of emergency.
A dangerous weekend weather system has killed at least 16 people in the U.S. South, with Georgia officials on Sunday reporting that 12 had died in severe weather that still threatens the region.
An apparent tornado blew through a mobile home park early in southern Georgia's rural Cook County — sheering off siding, upending homes and killing seven people, local authorities said. An eighth death was reported in Cook County by state officials, although it was unclear whether that victim lived in the park.
Two people were confirmed dead in neighbouring Georgia counties, bringing the state's toll to 12 a day after a reported tornado killed four in Mississippi. And the deadly weather wasn't over as night fell Sunday.
State of emergency
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency for seven counties in the south-central part of the state, warning that dangerous conditions persisted and could reach north to the Atlanta area.
"I urge all Georgians to exercise caution and vigilance in order to remain safe and prevent further loss of life or injuries," Deal said in a news release.
The system had also injured 23 people in southern Georgia, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said.
Severe winds toppled trees and downed power lines in Georgia and northern Florida on Sunday, and hail was sighted in northern Florida.Trump pledges federal assistance
President Donald Trump pledged federal assistance for Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Trump said during a White House ceremony that he had spoken to Deal and planned to speak with Florida Governor Rick Scott about the storms.
Trump said he expressed his condolences. "The tornadoes were vicious and powerful and strong and they suffered greatly," he said. "So we'll be helping out."
Photos from the affected areas showed collapsed buildings, homes with their roofs torn off, toppled trees and fields littered with debris.'A sense of shock'
First Baptist Church Adel was sheltering more than 50 people, said Pastor Bill Marlette, who had just informed a family that two of their relatives were among the dead.
"There's a lot of hurting people right now," he said, adding that many in the hard-hit mobile home park escaped with only the clothing on their backs.
"There's just a sense of shock. You always think it happens somewhere else, but when it happens to you, it catches you off guard," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.'High risk' warnings
The system prompted U.S. weather forecasters to issue a rare, "high risk" warning of severe storms threatening parts of southern Georgia, north Florida and Alabama on Sunday, the first such warning since 2014.
"These could be the kind of tornados you don't want to mess with," said Rich Thompson, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
The severe weather could extend to central Florida and South Carolina into Sunday evening, menacing population centres in Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee in Florida; and Savannah and Albany in Georgia, the National Weather Service said.
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