22 dead and hundreds hurt as tornado rips through Georgia

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The Independent US

Tornadoes roared across a swath of America's South in the early hours yesterday, killing at least 22 and injuring hundreds.

Tornadoes roared across a swath of America's South in the early hours yesterday, killing at least 22 and injuring hundreds.

The small Georgia town of Camilla was devastated by the winds, which left much of the town in ruins. "It's like somebody took a bulldozer and levelled it," a volunteer firefighter, Mikie Newsome, said. Fourteen people were killed in Mitchell County, around Camilla, and eight in neighbouring Grady and Colquitt counties.

"We've had whole neighbourhoods destroyed. Our people are dead. There are a lot of injuries and the roads are impassable," Stali Allen, a reporter with the Camilla Enterprise, said. Mobile homes, common in the area, were the worst affected. "All you heard was a roar, woo-woo-woo," said Johnny Jones, a resident.

A hundred people were treated for injuries at the county hospital, but it lost its power and had to rely on an emergency generator. The storms crushed houses, uprooted trees and brought down power lines. "The whole house came up and I came up with it," said Willie Nelson, of Camilla. His house moved three-quarters of a mile. "I was just praying to the Lord to take care of me," he said. In north-eastern Florida, several houses were damaged or destroyed, but it was Alabama and Georgia that bore the brunt. Arkansas also suffered damage. A belt of storms swept across the South, pushing north-east but weakening as they went. In places the tornadoes cleared a five-mile path ahead of them.

Two tornadoes struck the town just after midnight, when most of the residents were in bed, and although weathermen issued storm warnings, they went largely unheeded.

The Georgia Governor, Roy Barnes, declared a state of emergency in the worstaffected counties and asked for federal help. President Bill Clinton said: "I am very saddened by the terrible loss of life and the other damage which occurred as a result of the tornadoes which swept Georgia early this morning."

Charlie Jones lost the roof off his house in Ada, Alabama, but said: "I will not rebuild. This is the third time my house has been blown away. I'm done at this corner."

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