Watch: 23 dead after tornadoes touch down in US state of Alabama

Watch: 23 dead after tornadoes touch down in US state of Alabama

Washington (Agencies): A tornado tore through the southern US state of Alabama on Sunday, killing at least 23 people, uprooting trees and causing "catastrophic" damage to buildings and roads.

The victims including children, died in Lee County, said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones at a press conference. At least 12 of those deaths occurred in an area about 5 to 6 miles south of the city of Opelika, he said.

Jones initially reported 14 deaths. Later Sunday, he updated the number.

Jones described massive damage that appeared "as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground." He estimated a path of destruction about half a mile wide that stretched several miles to the east from where the tornado touched down.

It appeared that two tornadoes hit Lee County back-to-back within the span of an hour, a meteorologist said. At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama and Georgia on Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

A fallen cell tower lies across US Route 280 highway in Lee County, Alabama, after what appeared to be a tornado struck in the area.

The 23 deaths reported on Sunday marked what would be deadliest day for tornadoes in the state since the deadly Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado that killed more than 200 people in 2011.

Several people were transported to East Alabama Medical Center with serious injuries, Jones said. Authorities were prioritizing search and rescue efforts on Sunday evening, but were hampered by the dwindling light, he said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended the state of emergency that had been issued last month statewide due to tornadoes and severe weather.