Death toll rises as tornadoes and violent thunderstorms carve path through southern US

Tornadoes overturned cars, brought down power lines and flattened buildings in a second night of terrifying devastation

A violent, rotating thunderstorm formation that is lashing southern America states, bringing with it tornadoes and extreme weather, has claimed the lives of at least 20 people.

Six deaths were reported in Alabama and seven in Mississippi after tornadoes struck yesterday, although not all these fatalities were confirmed.

At least 16 people died in Arkansas, Iowa and Oklahoma on Sunday night.

Tornadoes overturned cars, brought down power lines and flattened buildings in a second night of terrifying devastation as the storm carved a deadly path through the south and midwest US. 

A tornado ripped through the Mississippi town of Tupelo - a city of about 35,000 and birthplace of Elvis Presley. Officials were forced to impose an 8pm (0100 GMT) curfew and much of the city was left without power.

The deadly tornadoes are part of a storm system that has brought the overall death toll from two days of severe weather in the country to over 20 people.

Tens of thousands of customers were without power in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi, and thousands more hunkered down in basements and shelters as The National Weather Service issued watches and warnings for more tornadoes throughout the night in Alabama.

Weather satellites from space showed tumultuous clouds arcing across much of the South over the course of the day yesterday.

The system is the latest onslaught of severe weather a day after a half-mile-wide tornado carved an 80-mile path of destruction through the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas, killing at least 15. Tornadoes or severe storms also killed one person each in Oklahoma and Iowa on Sunday.

Six people died in Winston County, Mississippi, including a woman who died in the day care centre she owned in Louisville, county Coroner Scott Gregory told The Associated Press. Louisville is the county seat and home to about 6,600 people.

It was unclear if any children were in the day care at the time, said William McCully, acting spokesman for the Winston County emergency management agency.

Earlier yesterday, emergency officials attending a news conference with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said seven people had been killed statewide.

State director of health protection Jim Craig said officials were working with coroners to confirm the total. It was unclear if the deaths in Winston County were included in that tally.

One of the deaths involved a woman who was killed when her car either hydroplaned or was blown off a road during the storm in Verona, south of Tupelo, said Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine Green.

Numerous watches and warnings were still active in Alabama, with forecasters warning the severe weather could continue all night.

Addtional reporting by PA.

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