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Stunned south cleans up

BY SUSAN KIM | TUSCALOOSA, AL | December 18, 2000

Worst hit was Tuscaloosa, AL where 12 people were killed by a twister that blew through a mobile home park and an adjacent upscale neighborhood.

In Mississippi, a tornado touched down in Lauderdale County, damaging or destroying 85 homes in the communities of Marion and Dalewood

Shore Lake, according to Amy Boissell, public information officer for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

"Seventeen people were injured," she said. "Lauderdale County declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon."

Church World Service is sending a disaster resource facilitator to coordinate local faith-based response. Disaster response personnel from the United Methodist Church are also planning to respond in both Alabama and Mississippi.

Lutheran Disaster Ministries is en route to Tuscaloosa.

In both Alabama and Mississippi, the Salvation Army has been providing meals and other emergency services for survivors. "We have served

2,500 meals so far in Tuscaloosa," said Salvation Army spokesperson Pam McCaffrey. "We have set up three disaster canteens and a distribution

center at Hillcrest High School. We are providing cleanup kits to survivors as well."

The American Red Cross has also been tending to survivors' immediate needs.

Tornadoes also struck Geneva, at the southern edge of the state, as well as rural Etowah and Limestone counties in the north. At least 50 people were injured across the state, according to Alabama Emergency Management Agency reports.

On Sunday morning, local churches gathered to pray for survivors and to collect special offerings.

"It's amazing the amount of devastation," said Jan Duval, a member at the Canterbury Episcopal Chapel. "The mobile home park was just

devastated, but so was a subdivision of $200,000 and $300,000 homes. It's strange stuff."

The Episcopal Chapel donated funds for survivors from its pastoral discretionary fund, and the national Episcopal Relief and Development

Fund is also issuing an emergency grant.

Robert Ehr, pastor at Big Sandy Baptist Church, located three miles from the most devastated area, said that people's needs will be long-term. "People are going to need financial assistance to rebuild their homes," he said.

Most of the victims were found in the trailer park, according to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. Trailers were blown off their

foundations, wrapped around other trailers, and pulverized into unrecognizable pieces.

Gov. Don Siegelman viewed the damage Sunday morning.

In Geneva, eight people were injured by twisters that struck there, according to Geneva County Emergency Management reports. Several

homes there were destroyed.

In Dale County, tornadoes destroyed a textile mill and damaged a peanut mill. Homes near the town of Newton also sustained damage.

In rural Etowah County, 12 people were injured and 24 homes were damaged, all in the communities of Ball Play and Coats Bend, according to Etowah County Emergency Management.

In Limestone County, eight homes were destroyed but there were no injuries reported.

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