Clean-up starts after tornado mauls Mississippi, injuring dozens

TUPELO, Miss. Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:58am EST

TUPELO, Miss. Feb 11 (Reuters) - Authorities were assessing the damage on Monday caused by a swarm of tornadoes and severe weather that ripped through seven Mississippi counties, injuring dozens of people as homes and other buildings were torn apart.

"It's definitely in the dozens," Mississippi Emergency Management spokesman Greg Flynn said of the total number of residents injured by the twisters.

He said no deaths had been reported after a tornado believed to be at least a mile wide touched down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, shortly before sunset on Sunday, but two people hospitalized in Lamar County suffered critical injuries.

The National Weather Service said it counted at least three separate twisters across south-central Mississippi.

At least 100 homes sustained some damage or were badly mangled in the tornadoes and other buildings that were damaged included parts of the University of Southern Mississippi, Flynn said.

He said most students at the university were off campus for the Mardi Gras holiday when the twister damaged several buildings there, including a performing arts center and an alumni house.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in all seven counties hit by the severe weather and power outages continued across a widespread area as a steady rain fell on Monday.

"The bad thing is, it keeps raining," said Flynn. "It's supposed to rain all day today and then all day tomorrow.

"We've already had flash-flooding issues and the creeks and the streams are all overtopped. It's just going to make things a lot more difficult in the recovery process."

(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Dan Grebler)

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