At least 3 dead in likely tornado near Hattiesburg, Mississippi

At least four people have been killed after a tornado ripped through MS, leaving a trail of destroyed homes in its wake.

The heavy storms hit parts of the southern MS early Saturday as National Weather Service office in Jackson dispatched a damage survey team to the area to probe what was believed to be a tornado that struck Forrest, Lamar and Perry counties, damaging buildings in Hattiesburg and Petal, including a college and a fire station.

At sunrise Saturday, more than 40 firefighters from across MS gathered outside Hattiesburg police headquarters to join the search for the dead and injured.

Greg Flynn of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said rescuers are still searching the stricken area for more possible victims.

William Carey University's campus also sustained heavy damage resulting from the tornado.

"There are some minor injuries", said Mia Overton, William Carey public relations coordinator. Dormitories and other buildings were damaged, the school said.

The university tweeted that the Hattiesburg campus is closed until further notice: "Students are being escorted from campus". For students who could not otherwise make it to their homes, arrangements were being made.

Aftermath of severe storms that hit city of Hattiesburg in USA state of MS on January 21, 2017.

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Photos and television images showed the intensity of the damage.

Tegan Sager, a freshman from Hermiston, Oregon, said she'd never been in a tornado before.

Four people died after the twister blew through the city and surrounding area, Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict said. She said bursts of lightning lit up the outside just before the tornado hit.

Darryl McMorris held onto his two daughters - one under each arm - as their house collapsed around them. "Girls were screaming and a person next to me got cut on the leg".

Storms were also forecast for Arkansas. He said it was too soon to estimate the number of injured people.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

The prediction center said a swath of southeast Arkansas, including Little Rock, had an enhanced risk of severe weather, including hail, high wind and tornadoes.

  • Alfonso Moody