Rescuers comb wreckage after deadly US storms

  • 26/02/2016
The worst-hit area of Virginia was Waverly (Reuters)
The worst-hit area of Virginia was Waverly (Reuters)

Residents and rescue crews are combing through wreckage left by storms that lashed the eastern US, killing at least eight people and injuring scores across a number of states.

The storm system on Wednesday (local time) pounded the Carolinas and Virginia with high winds, hail and heavy rain. Flood warnings were in place from Maryland to Maine.

The worst-hit area of Virginia was Waverly, a town about 210km south of Washington, where a tornado packing winds of up to 176km/h carved a path 274 metres wide and 14.5km long.

Two Waverly men and a two-year-old boy were killed when the twister demolished their mobile home. Their bodies were found about 300 metres away.

"It's hard to imagine what people went through when the storm was going on last night," Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe told reporters in the town, where streets and yards were filled with debris and downed trees.

Another man was killed near Appomattox. A State Police spokeswoman said on Thursday a fifth death was still unconfirmed.

William Brown, 71, of Petersburg, Virginia, said he was knocked unconscious when a tree fell on his truck as he tried to escape the storm in Waverly.

When he came to, he found that the mobile home he had been next to -- and where the victims had been -- was flattened.

"Every once in a while God lets us know who is in charge of things," said Brown as he watched a crane try to lift the tree off his vehicle.

National Guard troops were expected to be deployed across the state to clear downed trees and to open roads, officials said.

A Virginia emergency management spokesman said at least 40 people had been injured and almost 160 homes or businesses had been destroyed or damaged.

In South Carolina, a man died on Wednesday when he was struck by a falling tree. Tornadoes pummelled Louisiana and Mississippi on Tuesday, killing at least three people.

In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory said about 21,000 homes and businesses were without power, but there had been no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

The National Weather Service said the storm system would continue to push northward into Canada on Thursday. Snow and gusty winds were forecast across part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Lakes and New England.