A teenager sheltering in his basement has been killed and several of his family members critically injured as a tornado blew a tree on to their home in Alabama.
At least 30 other people were injured as the twister carved a path of destruction north of Birmingham.
The tornado caused damage for 10 miles, from Fultondale to Centre Point, striking an area severely harmed by a much larger tornado a decade ago.
The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday morning, and several of his family members were critically injured when their home collapsed, trapping them in the basement, Fultondale Police Chief DP Smith said.
“They were doing what they were supposed to be doing,” the chief said.
The teenager was a 14-year-old student in the ninth grade, according to Jefferson County Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin. He said other students may be homeless now, and Fultondale High School was so heavily damaged that he doubts students can return to classrooms this year.
Fultondale Fire Chief Justin McKenzie said 30 people were injured and 18 had to go to hospital. Search and rescue crews are going from home to home and checking the rooms of a heavily damaged hotel. Six people were pulled uninjured from damaged structures on Tuesday morning.
Injuries range from minor to severe but search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, said James Coker, director of Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.
Police blocked intersections leading to the hardest hit areas of Fultondale, which is home to about 9,000 people.
The people of Fultondale took a hard hit last night — I’m grieved over the loss of life, injuries, homes & damaged businesses. I offer my prayers & deepest sympathies & pledge the full support & resources our state has to offer. I am with you, Fultondale! #alwx #alpolitics
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) January 26, 2021
“The people of Fultondale took a hard hit last night — I’m grieved over the loss of life, injuries, homes & damaged businesses,” Alabama governor Kay Ivey said on Twitter early Tuesday.
“I offer my prayers & deepest sympathies & pledge the full support & resources our state has to offer. I am with you, Fultondale!”
Fultondale also caught the tail end of an EF- 4 tornado that ripped across Alabama from Tuscaloosa to northern Jefferson County on April 27 2011, killing 65 people and injuring 1,500 along a damage path more than 80 miles long, according to the National Weather Service.
Weather Service survey crews have yet to confirm this twister’s estimated strength, but FEMA described it as a “large tornado”.