"Devastated Alabama Town Struggles to Account for Its Missing"

"HACKLEBURG, Ala. — Over the last week, this close-knit little town has had to grapple with a most unfamiliar feeling: not knowing where everyone is.

When the tornadoes came through last Wednesday, ripping over the hills at speeds of up to 200 miles an hour, it left a town alien to itself. The bodies of strangers showed up in backyard ponds, survivors found themselves lying in open fields away from homes that were no longer there and, at night, there was no light, not as much as a streetlamp, to gather around and take stock.

Accounting for everyone, even here, in a town of 1,576, has proved a daunting task.

In the abstract, the reckoning of last week's human toll seems a straightforward quantitative exercise, though one comprised of hundreds of discrete tragedies. But the chaos left by the storm, with widespread power failures, limited cellphone coverage and the general scattering of people, has made the arithmetic doubly hard."

Campbell Robertson reports for the New York Times May 4, 2011.


Source: NY Times, 05/05/2011