At least 26 people have been killed in Mississippi after a deadly storm hit the State on Friday night. Dozens of others were injured and thousands were displaced following the natural disaster.
“It’s literally devastation,” Jourdan Hartshorn, a resident of Mississippi told ABC news, adding that it looked like ground zero after Katrina.
“I hate to say it — deceased people left and right,” he added.
“We can confirm the death toll has risen to 25 at this time. Dozens more are injured. Four people reported missing have been found,” the Mississippi emergency management agency, said in a statement on Saturday. As of Sunday morning, the death toll was said to have risen to 26.
The State’s governor, Tate Reeves, said “the scale of the damage and loss is evident everywhere affected today. Homes, businesses…entire communities,” adding that rescue and rebuilding operations were already in place in the affected areas. He shared pictures from the towns affected by the unexpected storm, adding that he had called President Biden to provide further assistance for the state at the trying time.
“I’m devastated by the destruction and loss of life that these storms have caused,” he continued and declared a state of emergency in Mississippi.
Reacting to the incident, US president Joe Biden said: “The images from across Mississippi are heartbreaking. While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, we know that many of our fellow Americans are not only grieving for family and friends, they’ve lost their homes and businesses.”
“To those impacted by these devastating storms, and to the first responders and emergency personnel working to help their fellow Americans: we will do everything we can to help. We will be there as long as it takes. We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover,” he added.
Surviving in a freezer
The tornado took the people of Mississippi unaware, as there was no sufficient information on the weather before the storm came visiting. Hence, citizens were unprepared and were searching for the easiest survival route.
Tracy Harden, a business owner in the State, said she managed to survive with her family inside a freezer.
“We didn’t know what was happening. I got a message from my daughter and my sister saying, ‘There’s a tornado, get to safety,’ and then one of my cashiers came and said her mom was on the phone and there was a tornado,” Harden told CNN. “Then all of a sudden, the lights—the lights started flickering and I don’t know if it was me or someone else who said, ‘Cooler!’ And my husband just started pushing us all in the cooler and this little spot saved our lives.”
“Thank God we’re alive but also, we’re so devastated by the loss. The whole trailer park behind the building is gone and we don’t know where everybody is, who’s alive and who’s gone,” the teary Harden added.
Several residents survived under similar circumstances as they were absolutely unprepared for a tornado.
Be thankful for being alive, Mississippi Mayor says
One of the most hit towns by the tornado was Rolling Fork, Mississippi, a small town of almost 2,000 residents. Mayor of the town Eldridge Walker said the city was gone, and there is almost nothing left in it.
“Devastation, as I’d looked from left to right, that’s all I see,” the mayor told CNN, adding that he and his wife survived by hiding inside their bathtub after receiving the warnings.
Everything happened “just that fast,” he added.
He advised those affected by the storm to be “thankful that they’re alive,” as everything other property could be recovered in time, except life.
“Houses that are torn up can be replaced, but we can’t replace a life,” the Mayor said. “My advice to them is to stand still and wait on the first responders to take care of them as we journey down this situation together.”
“We’re going to come back strong,” he added.
As of Sunday morning, rescue operations were still ongoing and there are fears that the death toll could increase by a few more numbers.