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Stunned Alabama cleans up

BY SUSAN KIM | Tuscaloosa, AL | December 17, 2000

Stunned residents began cleaning up Sunday morning after tornadoes raked the state Saturday. Worst hit was Tuscaloosa, where 12 people were killed by a twister that blew through a mobile home park and an adjacent upscale neighborhood.

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.

Church World Service is sending a disaster resource facilitator to coordinate local faith-based response. On Sunday morning, local churches gathered to pray for survivors and to collect special offerings.

The American Red Cross has set up emergency shelters to tend to survivors' immediate needs.

"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 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. National Guard troops still had the park sealed off on Sunday. Trailers were blown off their foundations, wrapped around other trailers, and pulverized into unrecognizable pieces.

The Alabama State Emergency Operations Center was activated Saturday to coordinate emergency response, and 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.

About 27,000 residents were still without power Sunday morning.

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