At least 23 people were killed Sunday by a tornado that caused “catastrophic” damage in Alabama, in the southeastern United States, according to the local sheriff.

“Our record now sadly reaches 23 dead,” said Jay Jones, the Lee County Sheriff located in eastern Alabama on the border with Georgia. He also reported several missing persons and others hospitalized with “very serious injuries”.

Children are among the victims, said county medical examiner Bill Harris at MSNBC.  

The searches were stopped at night due to poor conditions, but must resume Monday morning.

President Donald Trump sent his condolences to the affected people. “Tornadoes and thunderstorms were really violent and there could be others. To the families and friends of the victims, and to the wounded, may God bless you all! He tweeted.

A dozen tornadoes

According to the Lee County Sheriff, the tornado traveled several kilometers and caused “catastrophic” destruction on a strip of about 400 meters along its trajectory.

The sheriff spoke of only one tornado, but the meteorological services indicated that there had been several. According to CNN, two tornadoes hit Lee County simultaneously, while “at least a dozen” in total were reported in Alabama and Georgia on Sunday.

According to the US Meteorological Service (NWS), the tornado that hit Lee County was of the “EF-3” type, meaning that it was accompanied by winds of 218 to 266 km / h.

Images broadcast on TV channels or posted on social networks showed heavily damaged buildings, some with torn roofs or collapsed walls, trees split in two and roads strewn with debris and impassable.

Some 6,000 people were without electricity in Lee County, according to the PowerOutage.US website, which lists power outages in the United States. Power cuts affected 16,000 people in neighboring Georgia.

Meteorological services had issued a tornado alert for the affected area earlier Sunday. “GO TO SHELTER NOW! Go down to a cellar or go to an interior room of a solid building. Avoid windows, “they recommended.

A complex phenomenon that is difficult to predict with precision and is still under investigation, tornadoes are always associated with very violent storms, called “super-cellular storms”. They are particularly common in the United States.