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Tornado-stricken South begins damage tally, rebuilding

The recovery from devastating tornadoes across the South accelerated over the weekend as federal and state agencies moved quickly to help the thousands of people left homeless.

By Staff writer / May 1, 2011

Sal Merritt, left, and Edrich Barnes rest outside the remains of Alberta Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Thursday, April 28. The church was badly damaged by a tornado that left a path of destruction hundreds of yards wide.

Jay Reeves/AP

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The cleanup and the tally from last week’s devastating tornadoes across the South continued over the weekend as federal and state agencies moved quickly to help the thousands of people left homeless.

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Aware that this was the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – and of the criticism former President Bush felt for an inept federal response and what seemed to be personal disinterest – President Obama dispatched top administration officials following his visit to the area Friday.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills were all due to visit devastated areas in Alabama and Mississippi on Sunday, according to FEMA.

The latest death toll, according to the Associated Press, is at least 342 across seven states, including 250 in Alabama. The numbers of those killed in other states were reported to be 35 in Mississippi, 34 in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia, two in Louisiana, and one in Kentucky.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said late Saturday that 434 people were unaccounted for, down from 570 hours earlier.

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