Tornadoes hammer southern US causing several deaths

A vast storm system that spawned at least one tornado has swept across the southern US killing at least seven people.

The destructive force of the swirling air mass smashed rural communities around Selma, Alabama.

Dozens of homes and businesses in the city associated with the civil rights movement were reduced to ruins.

Six of the deaths were recorded in Autauga County, northeast of Selma, where an estimated 40 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that cut a 32 km path across two rural communities.

As residents returned to their homes to assess the damage, emergency services were searching for people possibly trapped under collapsed buildings.

Storm systems like these are unusual in winter. It follows extreme cold weather which has affected tens of millions across the US in recent weeks.