March 5, 2019 / 6:03 PM / 19 days ago

At least seven missing in Alabama after deadly weekend tornadoes

(Reuters) - Alabama search and rescue teams on Tuesday were combing through the wreckage of houses flatted by weekend tornadoes, looking for seven or eight people still unaccounted for in the wake of the deadliest U.S. twister outbreak since 2013.

The tiny community of Beauregard, near the Alabama-Georgia border, was beginning to mourn the 23 people confirmed killed by the storms, which included four children and seven people from one family, officials said on Tuesday.

The victims ranged in age from 6 to 93 years old, Bill Harris, coroner for storm-ravaged Lee County, told a morning news conference.

“Just keep these families in your prayers,” Harris said.

Most of the deceased were found in close proximity to their homes. The four children were age 6, 8, 9 and 10, officials said.

County Sheriff Jay Jones said on Tuesday that search crews had narrowed their scope down to “the most affected areas” after scouring much of the county on Monday. He said he hoped the search and rescue effort would become a recovery effort by the end of the day.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he will visit the areas of Alabama that were devastated by the tornadoes on Friday.

“It’s been a tragic situation,” Trump said at the White House before a ceremony on military veteran suicides. “But a lot of good work is being done. I’m in constant touch with the governor and also the governor of Georgia.”

Slideshow (8 Images)

The tornadoes, stirred up by a late-winter “supercell” thunderstorm, toppled mobile homes and uprooted massive trees on Sunday with 170 mile-per-hour (274 km-per hour) winds. Forecasters ranked the worst of the outbreak at step four of the six-step Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado strength.

The Beauregard community in the twister’s path might have had as few as eight or nine minutes to seek shelter from the time the warning was issued, National Weather Service chief meteorologist Chris Darden said.

In addition to 23 confirmed deaths, more than 50 people were reported injured, authorities said, making this the deadliest tornado outbreak since a massive tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013, killing 24 people and injuring 375 others.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio

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