Nightly News | May 01, 2011
>> the historic outbreak of tornadoes that swept across the south, leveling communities, killing 342 people, we learn today still hundreds of others are officially listed as missing, unaccounted for. four days in it's still difficult for us to show you how much was lost. take a look. one tornado in tuscaloosa cutting across several miles through heavily populated areas. every pile of brick, every pile of wood here tells a story. this was a japanese restaurant . 20 people took refuge in the office. it's still standing . ten others took refuge in a cooler. they all survived as the building literally disent grated around them. officially 39 people have died here in us the tuscaloosa . there's a growing fear that number of will go up. john?
>> there are so many stories here. remarkable survival. devastating loss. people tonight are pulling together, picking up and trying to move forward.
>> reporter: a show of force today from the obama administration as five agency heads, including three cabinet secretaries , got a first-hand look at the damage and the needs.
>> i don't think words can fairly express the level of devastation here.
>> reporter: in heart-hit tuscaloosa , officials released the names of the 39 confirmed dead . their ages ranging from 95 years to 8 months. more than 450 are still missing.
>> my heart tells me that we will have many more fatalities.
>> reporter: the work of rebuilding power grids shifted into high gear . across the south at least 650,000 customers remain without electricity.
>> reporter: at tuscaloosa st. john baptist church , a spiritual rebuilding. 14 members of the congregation lost their homes but none of them lost their lives.
>> the tornado had no addresses. amen. no addresses were on there. there were no black and whites.
>> reporter: in the alberta city neighborhood, 14 people rode out the tornado in the basement of this home and escaped with just scratches.
>> when we first stood out and started screaming, because we knew our house was gone, but we looked around and everybody's house was gone.
>> reporter: the university of alabama 's school year was cut short by the tornado. but students are sticking around to run a relief operation. since they started on friday, more than 12,000 meals cooked, packed and delivered. other donations of diapers, toiletries, canned goods, sorted, packed, out the door for delivery almost as fast as they come in. the heart is the power of twitter.
>> we need white bread . ten minutes later a man will show up and say i have $100 worth of sliced bread . it's the way our generation is and our community responds.
>> reporter: a single facebook post sent volunteers descending on an elementary school . they recovered books from the rubble of the school's library before tomorrow's expected rain.
>> i was hoping to get a handful of people i knew to help out. i got here at 10:30 when i said and there were already ten people out here working. people i didn't know. strangers.
>> reporter: it's not just local folks who are lining up to help, lester. the city's volunteer hotline has been getting calls as far away as new hampshire and california, all with one question. what can we do to help?
>> what an incredible outpouring. john