A massive clean-up is under way in the United States after a chain of tornadoes swept through the Midwest and South, killing at least 36 people and destroying entire towns.
About 17 million people from Texas to Indiana to North Carolina were affected by the storm system that spawned at least 90 tornadoes on Friday and continued into the weekend.
Emergency crews were searching for survivors on Sunday in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Alabama, officials said.
In parts of southern Georgia and northern Florida, the twisters brought heavy rain and high wind as far south as Orlando.
Homes were flattened, schools and business smashed and vehicles and trees tossed aside by Friday's storms.
Authorities said one small town in Indiana was "gone" after the disaster.
The Indiana town of Marysville, near the border with Tennessee, was reported to be "gone", Major Chuck Adams, the sheriff's department spokesman, said.
Shelly Jones, a local official, said that houses were also missing near the unincorporated town of Chelsea in that state.
In Kentucky, at least 12 people were killed in tornado-related storms, the state department of public health said.
Four of those deaths were in Menifee County in the eastern half of the state, with a fifth in Kenton County, near
In southwestern Ohio, a 54-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman died in Clermont County.
Many of Friday's tornadoes were reported in Alabama's Madison county, with the weather service reporting "people trapped in rubble with injuries", houses destroyed, trees ripped from the ground and power lines down.
There was also damage to a maximum security prison but authorities say that none of the inmates escaped.
Elsewhere, in Indiana, officials in Clark County were scrambling to deal with widespread damage from the storm after roads were blocked by fallen trees and debris and power and phone lines were knocked out.
"I can't confirm any damage right there yet, we're just trying to concentrate on the more populated areas and we've been inundated with calls."
The high school in Henryville, a town almost entirely destroyed by the winds, suffered "quite a bit of damage" but luckily all the children were evacuated safely before the school's roof was ripped off.
Only minor injuries - some cuts and scrapes - were reported, Adams told the AFP news agency.
Power linked hit
After 11 high-voltage Tennessee Valley Authority transmission lines were knocked out in northern Alabama and southeastern Tennessee, about 57,000 customers of public power agencies in the TVA service area were without power on Friday evening in north Alabama, western Kentucky and southeast Tennessee, the power supplier said.
This year, the tornadoes seem to have come slightly early, with the mild winter creating the right conditions for cold fronts to collide with warmer air.
This latest outbreak of twisters comes as people were still picking through rubble left behind by a series of tornadoes which struck six states on Tuesday and Wednesday, killing at least 13 people.
Peak tornado season in the southern states is usually March to May, and in the northern states late spring to early summer.
About 545 people were killed during last year's tornado season, the deadliest on record since 1936 and the third-worst since records have been kept, according to the national weather service.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|