50 Dead As Violent Storms Rip Across South

LAFAYETTE, Tenn. (AP) — The National Weather Service has posted tornado watches for parts of southern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and western Georgia, but the storm system that spawned a deadly cluster of tornadoes in five Southern states overnight appears to be weakening as it moves eastward.

Rescue crews, some with the help of the National Guard, have been going door-to-door looking for victims in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. At least 50 people have been reported dead.

Residents have been trying to salvage what they can from homes reduced to piles of debris.

In Washington, President Bush said he called the governors of the five states to assure them the administration was ready to help and to deal with any emergency requests. He says those affected should “know the American people are standing with them.”

The loss of life was most severe in Tennessee, where 26 people were killed. Emergency officials say 13 were killed in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky and four in Alabama.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Randy Harris says the latest reported fatalities in the state were in Moore County, along the Kentucky border northeast of Nashville.

He says about 150 people have been injured.

The twisters wiped out homes, shredded warehouses and damaged a mall near Memphis.

Eight students were trapped in a battered dormitory at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, until rescuers freed them. Tornadoes had hit the campus in the past, and University President David Dockery says students knew the drill when they heard sirens.

Dockery told NBC’s “Today” show that the drills and planning “saved those lives.”