Trump views 'unbelievable' damage in tornado-hit Alabama

VIDEO: REUTERS
Trump (centre) tours the affected area with Melania Trump (right) and Ben Carson (centre-right), US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump (centre) tours the affected area with Melania Trump (right) and Ben Carson (centre-right), US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.PHOTO: AFP

BEAUREGARD, Alabama (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump on Friday (March 8) visited communities in eastern Alabama devastated by tornadoes that tore through homes and businesses, killing 23 people.

The president and first lady Melania Trump took a helicopter tour of the area before visiting the homes of some of the victims in the tiny and especially hard-hit community of Beauregard, near the border with Georgia.

Their motorcade passed trees knocked down like kindling and homes scattered in pieces.

"Beauregard supports Trump," said a sign held up by a man as the vehicles passed.

"This is unbelievable," Trump said as he and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey surveyed the devastation.

He said he had seen"unbelievable" destruction from the air, too.

Relatives of one victim, Marshall Lynn Grimes, showed the president the 59-year-old's cherished motorcycle vest and Bible. Trump hugged members of the family.

 
 
 

The president and first lady then visited a disaster relief center at a church in Opelika, the county seat, to meet with survivors, volunteers, and first responders.

Tables at the church were piled high with donated clothes, toiletries and other items.

Sunday's tornadoes were the deadliest to hit the state since 2013. All 23 victims, including four children and seven members of one family, were killed in or around Beauregard, in rural Lee County about 16km south-east of Auburn.

Dozens of people were injured and about 100 houses were destroyed by 264kmh winds, officials said.

Mobile homes were tossed over and ripped open last weekend, their contents strewn across a landscape littered with debris and uprooted trees. In some places, shreds of houses had hung from the limbs of the few trees left standing.

The worst of the twisters, stirred up by a late-winter "supercell" thunderstorm, were ranked by forecasters at step four of the six-step Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado strength.

It was the greatest loss of life from a tornado since an EF-5 storm ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013, killing 24 people and injuring 375 others.