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Volunteers, aid start pouring into community after tornado’s deadly toll

The small community of Beauregard is facing the grief of at least 23 deaths, including children, after a tornado struck the southeastern Alabama community on Sunday afternoon (March 3).

Search efforts for about a dozen people who had not been accounted for were continuing amid the debris.

Providence Baptist Church in Beauregard was serving as a Red Cross shelter and reunification point for families in the community.

“Disaster relief volunteers are hard at work already,” reported Mark Wakefield, a disaster relief strategist.

Three disaster relief teams are on site, with others on standby, Wakefield said.

One disaster relief team was assisting in search and rescue, another was tarping roofs and the third was working with chainsaws to clear debris.

“The community is doing a phenomenal job” in rallying to help tornado survivors, Wakefield added. “Dozens and dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers are showing up to help, or bringing supplies or bringing in heavy equipment.”

Despite the horror of such disasters, Wakefield said, “It’s remarkable to be in a place where people take care of each other.”

Providence Baptist posted on its website around noon: “Thank you for the response! We are at capacity today with supplies. If you would like to donate please give blood or give a monetary donation to Providence Baptist Church Disaster Relief or American Red Cross – Lee County.”

A person who answered the phone at the church said no one was available to answer media inquiries.

“Multiple children” lost their lives in the tornado, the AL.com news website reported. “The youngest victim was 6 years old, but it is not clear how many children are among the dead.”

All the deaths occurred in an area one-quarter to a half-mile wide and a mile long, according to various reports.

“Small communities are very tightly connected,” said Sam Porter, national director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. “It’s going to be very devastating.”

“Everyone knows everybody in those kind of places,” Porter said. “It’s not just one family, but the whole community has lost 23 people.”

Chaplains are part of the teams involved in disaster responses, Porter said, noting, “They’re going to get great spiritual, emotional care from the Alabama teams.”

Tornadoes from the storm system also were reported in Georgia and Florida.

The unincorporated Beauregard community is located six miles south of Opelika.

The deadliest tornado outbreak in Alabama history remains the April 27, 2011, storms which claimed 246 lives.

— by Art Toalston | BP

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