Tornadoes leave US communities devastated

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The Independent US

Thousands of people still reeling from the second-deadliest day of tornadoes in US history surveyed scenes of devastation across the South yesterday as they prepared to mourn the hundreds killed with a day of sombre church services. All told, at least 342 people died across seven states, including 250 in Alabama. Thousands more were injured. Alberta City, a neighbourhood in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was flattened by the tornadoes.

President Barack Obama's administration is trying to show an effective response to the storms and twisters that killed about 350 people last week in seven southern states, reduced neighborhoods to rubble and caused damage expected to run into billions of dollars.

Obama visited Alabama on Friday and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, toured damage yesterday in Pratt City, Alabama. They were later heading for Smithville, Mississippi.

"I don't think words can fairly express the level of devastation here. I am not articulate enough," Napolitano said after seeing how storm winds had torn through a house in Trilby Street and talking with a family who lived there.

Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush, was sharply criticized over the federal rescue effort after Hurricane Katrina raked the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans in 2005.

But Alabama's Republican Governor Robert Bentley praised the federal response to this disaster and said the state's deep culture of self-reliance and community help had made a huge difference.