US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in Mississippi after a tornado killed at least 26 as it tore through the area.

The declaration will make federal funding available to Carroll, Humphreys, Monroe and Sharkey counties, the places hardest hit by the deadly storm on Friday.

Recovery crews are continuing the daunting task of sifting through the debris of flattened buildings, with dozens injured and hundreds displaced.

The massive storm left a trail of devastation in one of the poorest regions of the US as it tore through several towns on its hour-long path.

High winds flattened entire streets, obliterated houses, ripped a steeple off a church and toppled a municipal water tower.

One man died when his trailer home flipped several times in Alabama.

Even as recovery starts, the risk remains of further severe weather, including high winds, large hailstones and the possibility of more tornadoes in eastern Louisiana, south central Mississippi and south central Alabama.

According to data from the National Weather Service, the tornado reached gusts of between 166mph and 200mph.

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A vehicle and home are seen damaged in Silver City, Miss., Saturday, March 25, 2023, in the aftermath of a tornado that devastated the state the night before. (Hannah Mattix/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
Vehicle and homes were damaged in Mississippi. Pic: AP

People screaming for help in the dark

“How anybody survived is unknown by me,” said Rodney Porter, who lives 20 miles (32km) south of Rolling Fork.

When the storm hit on Friday night, he immediately drove there to assist in any way he could.

He arrived to find “total devastation” and said he smelled gas and heard people screaming for help in the dark.

“Houses are gone, houses stacked on top of houses with vehicles on top of that,” he said.

Annette Body drove to the hard-hit town of Silver City from nearby Belozi to survey the damage.

She said she was feeling “blessed” because her own home was not destroyed, but other people she knows lost everything.

“Cried last night, cried this morning,” she said, looking around at flattened homes.

A resident of Silver City, Miss., stands next to his home Saturday, March 25, 2023, while surveying the surrounding damage following a deadly tornado that ripped through the state Friday night. (The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
Further tornadoes are possible in the southern US state. Pic: AP

“They said you need to take cover, but it happened so fast a lot of people didn’t even get a chance to take cover.”

Storm survivors walked around on Saturday, many dazed and in shock, as they broke through thickly clustered debris and fallen trees with chainsaws, searching for anyone trapped.

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