Washington: As many as 23 people were killed in the US state of Alabama as a cluster of storms ripped through the country's Southeast region, spawning multiple tornadoes and leaving a trail of destruction.
The first tornado warning in central Alabama went out at around 1 p.m. on Sunday. As the storms pushed east, the tornadoes left a path of destruction that stretched from Alabama into Florida and Georgia, the New York Times reported.
The reported deaths were all in Lee County, Alabama, where two tornadoes, one at least a half-mile wide, wrecked homes and uprooted trees.
Sheriff Jay Jones described massive damage that appeared "as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground". He estimated a path of destruction about half a mile wide that stretched several miles to the east from where the tornado touched down, CNN reported.
It appeared two tornadoes hit Lee County back-to-back within an hour, according to CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman. At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama and Georgia on Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
Footage broadcast by CNN affiliate WRBL showed trees destroyed by the powerful winds and debris from levelled homes piled up on the side of the road.
Many homes suffered significant damages, sheriff Jones said, adding multiple agencies were working to assist in the search for injured people inside their homes.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended the state of emergency, issued last month, statewide due to tornadoes and severe weather.
"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today," she tweeted. "Praying for their families and everyone whose homes or businesses were affected."
President Donald Trump tweeted "to the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe." He also said "to the families of the victims, and to the injured. God bless you all!"
In 2011, 230 people were killed after more than 60 tornadoes hit Alabama.