Huge clearup after storms kill 14 in US

stormRescue workers and heartbroken residents sifted through what was left of homes wiped out by a series of ferocious storms and tornadoes that tore through swathes of the United States, killing 14 people.

The storms, feeding on unseasonable warm air, left a trail of destruction in rural communities from Illinois to Alabama, just as Christmas reached its crescendo.

More than a dozen tornadoes were reported in six states but Mississippi, in the south, was hardest hit. Seven people were reported dead there, said the state’s Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

“Most of these storms caused a lot of damage in north Mississippi but our teams are out assessing the damage, trying to put a quantity on how many homes and how many businesses have been damaged,” the emergency agency’s Brett Carr said Thursday.

Among the dead in Mississippi was a boy of seven after one particularly brutal storm picked up and tossed the car he was traveling in, fire chief Kenny Holbrook told reporters in the town of Holly Springs, where thousands greeted Christmas Day without power.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in seven counties after the storms caused widespread damage.

Debris from ravaged buildings and other structures littered roads, making them unpassable.

Officials were inviting volunteers to step up or make donations as people who fled returned to their homes to see what was left standing, if anything. Some were left in tears.

Television footage and pictures posted on social media showed homes flattened across several states, with possessions and Christmas presents strewn on the ground or left in a messy heap.

Power lines, trees and mobile phone towers were also toppled.

The worst appeared to be over, however forecasters at the National Weather Service warned of flash floods in the US southeast.

The US East Coast meanwhile is enjoying unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures in New York’s iconic Central Park peaking at 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) Thursday, the warmest Christmas Eve since records began in 1871.

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