6 Mar 2019

Alabama tornadoes: Seven family members among 23 killed

11:29 am on 6 March 2019

Seven members of one family were among the 23 victims identified after tornadoes devastated the US state of Alabama, officials have said.

People walk amid debris in Lee County, Ala., after what appeared to be a tornado struck in the area Sunday, March 3, 2019.

People walk amid debris in Lee County, Alabama after a tornado struck in the area Sunday. Photo: AP

Every victim, including four children, was found close to their homes, rescue crews say.

The victims ranged in age from six to 89, Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told a news conference.

Up to eight people remain missing, officials say, and there are fears that the death toll could rise.

"We believe that every victim was in the residence when it hit. They all ended up, with the exception of two, outside the residence," Mr Harris told reporters, adding that their homes "aren't there".

A fallen cell tower lies across U.S. Route 280 highway in Lee County, Ala., in the Smiths Station community after what appeared to be a tornado struck in the area.

A fallen cell tower lies across a highway in the Smiths Station community after a tornado struck in the area. Photo: AP / Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer

One survivor lost seven members of his family, and warned that he may be facing "financial issues" because of multiple funeral costs.

"They're going to have seven funerals that they have to finance somehow," he said, adding that donors have been reaching out to help the family with the expenses.

The tornadoes struck eastern Alabama on Sunday, levelling homes and carving a path almost a kilometre wide in some parts of the state.

Temperatures dropped below freezing on Tuesday as volunteer crews sorted through debris, looking for survivors and bodies.

On Monday, weather officials upgraded the fatal twister that hit Lee County to EF-4 with wind speeds of 275km/h.

Almost 50 people were injured and numerous homes and businesses were reduced to rubble as multiple tornadoes touched down in south-east Alabama and Georgia.

During Tuesday's briefing, an official with the National Weather Service said the deadliest tornado had travelled for about 113km and another nearby travelled for 47km.

Bags of ice and medications are being made available to residents, who have been told they should start bringing debris out to the street for it to be removed by county rubbish crews.

Some residents who narrowly survived the onslaught have travelled to shelters to lend a hand and donate goods.

"I had a friend who lost his life, and just my heart spoke," Stephanie Griffith tearfully told WVTM-TV as she dropped off supplies at a shelter in Lee County.

"So I went through my home this morning I got things that I'm not going to use and I know they'll be needed here."

Members of the Auburn University football team, the Tigers, were on hand on Monday to help distribute food and water at emergency shelters.

Alabama State Trooper Robert Burroughs was in the intensive care unit of a local hospital in "serious condition", police said.

He and his wife Sandi lost their home in Sunday's storm.

"Troopers have a strong sense of camaraderie and will surround the Burroughs family at this time and offer support both short and long term," said Corporal Jess Thornton.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he planned to visit the region on Friday.

"It's been a tragic situation, but a lot of good work is being done," he told reporters at the White House.