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Miracles amid the tornado rubble

Rescuers in tornado-stricken Birmingham, Ala., save two babies from the devastation, including one trapped in a crib when a house collapsed.

April 28, 2011|Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

Rescue workers combing through flattened neighborhoods in tornado-stricken Birmingham, Ala., are finding miracles amid the devastation.

Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper told PBS' "NewsHour" on Thursday that officers are searching wrecked homes by hand, pulling people out of the rubble.

"We even rescued two babies, one that was trapped in a crib when the house fell down on top," he said.

The twister's caprice carried the power to astonish.

"We're seeing five houses destroyed, but there is one that was right in the center that is still standing," Roper said.

"I have seen a house where the roof was gone, two of the walls were gone, but the bed was still sitting there, made up, with the spread still intact.... Amazing."

The city had several hours' warning of the tornadoes, Roper said, but some residents were lulled into a false sense of security by a morning storm.

"Once that line of storms came through, some people might have gotten a sense of calm," he said, despite warnings that a more serious storm could be on the way.

"When that [storm] line hit, some people followed the proper procedures and went to the basements and all of that. But there were some others who took it for granted. And those were the ones we were rescuing."

Officials estimated the tornadoes' death toll across the South at nearly 300: at least 195 in Alabama, 34 in Tennessee, 32 in Mississippi, 14 in Georgia, 12 in Arkansas, five in Virginia and one in Kentucky. An estimated 26 were killed in Birmingham, the largest city in the state, with more than 212,000 people.

Roper said officers encounter some survivors with "a look of loss and despair."

"We're there to give them hope," he said.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

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