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Rescue teams search for storm victims

Story Highlights

• 20 dead as officials work to assess damage, death toll
10 killed in Alabama, eight of them at a high school
• Storms swept through Georgia, killing nine people overnight
• One fatality blamed on tornado in Missouri
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AMERICUS, Georgia (CNN) -- Search parties were going door-to-door Friday in Americus, Georgia, after deadly storms destroyed the town's Red Cross headquarters and shut down a hospital.

Storms spawning tornadoes killed 20 people in three states.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it was sending 14 teams to the hardest-hit areas. (Watch tornado scream into Enterprise, Alabama Video )

In Americus, a tornado slammed into the Sumter Regional Hospital, shutting it down as health workers were treating victims coming in from the storm, according to spokesman Buzz Weiss of the state Emergency Management Agency.

The patients, none of whom was killed, were transferred to other hospitals, Weiss said. (Full story)

Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith said two people were killed and at least seven people were critically injured away from the hospital.

The twister also destroyed the local headquarters of the Red Cross, its generators and three of its disaster trailers, an official said.

As many as 400 homes may have been destroyed, the local Red Cross estimated, and a shelter has been opened at the First Baptist Church.

The city will be under a curfew and school was canceled Friday, Smith said. Ninety state troopers were slated to arrive in the town of 17,000 on Friday morning, he said.

Nine of the 20 deaths happened in southern Georgia -- six in Baker County, two in Americus and one in Taylor County -- Weiss said. (Where the storms hit)

Deadly path

The storms hit Georgia after tearing through the heartland on Thursday, killing 10 people in Alabama and a 7-year-old girl in Missouri. She died when a tornado hit her family's mobile home, The Associated Press reported.

Among the dead in Alabama were eight teenagers who were killed while seeking shelter in a school in Enterprise, Mayor Kenneth Boswell said. (Audio Slide Show: Destruction at school)

Students at Enterprise High School huddled in the auditorium, near the center of campus, after tornado sirens sounded Thursday, according to an Enterprise Police Department official.

About a half hour later, a tornado damaged the school's roof, causing it to partially collapse on the students, the official said. (Full story)

"The whole building just collapsed on everybody," said Chase Baldwin, a student at the school. "A bunch of people were trapped under cinder blocks, and people had their heads cut open."

Laren Allgood, a reporter for the Enterprise Ledger, said the sprawling high school "looked like a bomb dropped on [it.] All the school buses are demolished." (Watch scenes of a school that's been "cut in half" Video)

Yasamie Richardson, a spokeswoman for the state Emergency Operations Center, said there were two other deaths from Thursday's storms, one in Enterprise and one in Wilcox County.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on the city of 20,000 to help keep roads clear for emergency workers, who were working overnight to search the damaged buildings, Boswell said. (Watch an I-Reporter document how the tornado indiscriminately ripped through Enterprise Video)

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley declared a state of emergency for the area and on Thursday ordered the National Guard to send a contingent of 140 troops, including medics and roving security patrols, from Mobile to Enterprise. Their primary mission is security.

Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has declared a state of emergency in six counties.

President Bush said he will visit the storm-ravaged areas Saturday "with a heavy heart," according to AP. Bush said he will make the trip "knowing full well that I'll be seeing people whose lives were turned upside down by the tornadoes. I'll do my very best to comfort them."

FEMA Director David Paulison said Friday that his agency is sending 14 teams to areas hit by the storms. Sheltering those who lost homes and taking care of families will be their primary mission, he said.

The FEMA teams will assess whether there is enough damage to warrant natural disaster declarations, Paulison said.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.


Enterprise - 9
Wilcox County - 1

Baker County - 6
Americus - 2
Taylor County - 1

Caulfield - 1





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