At least eleven people have been killed by several huge tornadoes in the US state of Texas, bringing the death toll in the past week across the southern states to 29 people. The powerful tornadoes, accompanied by severe storms and gale-force winds, cut power lines and ripped trees from their roots whilst houses and churches were destroyed.

The worst-hit area was Garland, just east of Dallas, where at least eight people lost their lives. Five died when their cars were blown off a motorway near State Highway 190 and Interstate 30, whilst three people were found dead in other towns nearby.

Garland sits in the middle of a 64km (20 mile) zone from south of Dallas up to suburbs in the north east which took the brunt of the storms on Saturday (26 December) which left 600 buildings damaged or irreparable.

The Dallas metro area is the fourth most populous in the US with over 7 million people, and the storms left 30,000 people, on its outer edges without power, with reports of burst gas pipes. Over 440 flights in and out of the area have been cancelled.

On Christmas Eve tornadoes demolished parts of Mississippi and on Christmas day a tornado struck the Birmingham area of Alabama, trapping people inside destroyed houses. One person died in the state following the freak weather.

"It is total devastation," said Garland Police spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Barineau to Reuters. "It is a very difficult time to be struck by such a horrible storm the day after Christmas." The Red Cross has been operational in the area setting up a number of shelters from homeless residents.

Local media reported that two people were found dead at a petrol station in nearby Copeville, and a third person was killed in Blue Ridge. Ten people have died in Mississippi, six in Tennessee, with Arkansas and Alabama each reporting one fatality.

Mississippi was one of the worst hit regions with 56 people being left injured and more than 400 homes destroyed after up to 20 tornadoes hit the state. One of the tornadoes was said to leave a trail more than 100 miles long.

Kevin Taylor, a church pastor in Glenn Heights, south of Dallas, said according to the BBC: "Doors began to turn inward, when I saw that I figured the glass was going to shatter and hit me in the face, so I broke and ran down the hallway and by the time I got just a few feet everything collapsed and went dark and fell on top of me. By the grace of God I'm here though."

Meteorologists believe that warmer than average weather has contributed to the severity of the storms. The crisis is not yet over, with west Texas and New Mexico expecting major blizzards, bringing up to 16in (41cm) of snow.