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Church members take refuge from tornado in pastor’s home

CARBON HILL, Ala. (BP)–Terrified church members crouched in the basement of First Baptist Church in Carbon Hill, Ala., as a killer tornado destroyed a large portion of the downtown business district, killing nine people.

The pastor had just finished his message when the sirens sounded, Timothy Murray, the church’s student minister, recounted. About 30 worshipers were herded into the church’s basement where they survived the storm.

“It was pretty scary,” Murray said. “Fortunately a lot of people weren’t at church because of the bad weather.”

Murray said he could hear the tornado as it clipped the back corner of the church. “After it hit we went upstairs and we knew it was bad when we saw the sanctuary,” he said. The storm had blown open the doors. Leaves and other debris littered the auditorium.

“We lost shingles and siding but we didn’t have any major structural damage,” he said. “But the rest of downtown looks like a war zone.”

Murray said buildings throughout the town were destroyed or heavily damaged. He reported that two homes burned to the ground.

City officials locked down the town and some stranded church members took refuge in the parsonage.

“There were about eight of us who couldn’t get to our own homes so the pastor put us up in his house,” Murray said. “And he also had a basement just in case there was any more bad weather.”

Murray said no church members were injured in the storm.

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