President Obama has visited Alabama after scores of powerful tornadoes devastated seven southern US states in the country’s worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The president and his family went to the wrecked university city of Tuscaloosa.
More than 300 people were killed — most of them in Alabama — when more than 160 twisters cut a swathe of destruction from Arkansas to Virginia.
Tornadoes are a fact of life in the US south and mid-west, but rarely are they as devastating as this. A state of emergency is in force in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.
Obama has promised federal help to rebuild.
Claudia Keen from Tuscaloosa in Alabama said: “We’re looking for our loved ones. We keep hearing people whining but we can’t find nobody.”
In some areas entire neighbourhoods were flattened. Up to a million people in Alabama alone were left without power. One witness said it sounded like a chainsaw.
James Dixon’s house in Tuscaloosa was flattened. He said: “Hell, that’s exactly what it is. I’ve been through hell. But I can tell you this, even though I’ve lost everything I’m still blessed to have my life, to be here.”
Insurance experts have been reluctant to put a figure on the cost of the damage, though one said that once the full picture becomes clear the event will be of historic proportions.