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More Than 300 Dead As Tornadoes Hit Southern U.S.

Tornadoes have torn through Alabama and other U.S. southern states, killing more than 300 people. This photo shows the devastation in Pratt City, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama.

Officials say more than 300 people have been killed in southern U.S. states in what's being described as the most devastating tornado outbreak in America in nearly 40 years.

Alabama has been the worst-hit state, with officials saying more than 200 people have been confirmed killed -- including at least 36 deaths in one town, Tuscaloosa.

Tornadoes and violent storms have also hit the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, and Virginia -- destroying buildings, flipping over vehicles, knocking down power lines and, in some cases, wiping out whole neighborhoods.

President Barack Obama, who was planning to visit Alabama on April 29 to oversee rescue and recovery efforts, has pledged strong federal government support for rebuilding.

"The loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “In a matter of hours, these deadly tornadoes -- some of the worst that we've seen in decades -- took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, even entire communities. Others are injured and some are still missing, and in many places the damage to homes and businesses is nothing short of catastrophic."

More than 160 tornadoes are reported to have hit the region this week.

The U.S. National Weather Service said the number of deaths from the tornado strikes is the most in America since a tornado outbreak killed 315 people in 1974.

compiled from agency reports