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Obama tours areas wrecked by twisters

Barack Obama yesterday toured parts of Alabama devastated by a string of tornadoes that have killed nearly 300 people.

The loss of life is the greatest from an outbreak of tornadoes in the US since April 1974, when 315 people were killed across 13 states.

Alabama bore the brunt of the storms on Wednesday. More than two-thirds of the victims lived there, and large cities were devastated by the half-mile-wide twisters. The high death toll seems surprising in the era of precise satellite forecasts. But the storms were too wide and powerful.

Those who took shelter began returning home on Thursday, but were struggling with no electricity and little help from overstretched emergency services. "This is the worst tornado devastation I've ever seen," said Senator Richard Shelby during a visit to Tuscaloosa, which Mr Obama was due to visit yesterday.

Officials in Alabama said the state had 210 confirmed deaths. There were 33 in Mississippi, 33 in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Kentucky.