Pope Francis sent condolences Wednesday to tornado victims in Alabama, where searchers have been scouring a dismal landscape of shattered homes, splintered pines and broken lives.

President Donald Trump said he will visit Alabama on Friday to see the damage.

Twenty-three people were killed and dozens more were injured when the powerful tornado ripped through Lee County. The youngest of those killed was 6, the oldest 89.

Kayla Causey sifts through the debris while helping her mother retrieve personal items after a tornado destroyed her home in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Kayla Causey sifts through the debris while helping her mother retrieve personal items after a tornado destroyed her home in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The search for victims, pets and belongings in and around the devastated rural community of Beauregard was being conducted amid the din of beeping heavy machinery and whining chain saws on Tuesday. But Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said the list of the missing had shrunk from dozens to just seven or eight.

“We’ve got piles of rubble that we are searching just to make sure,” said Opelika Fire Chief Byron Prather Jr. “We don’t think we’ll find nobody there, but we don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was praying for the dead and injured of the Alabama tornado, saying he is spiritually close to all those who are suffering and grieving.

Debris is scattered after a tornado blew a home off its foundation in Beauregard, Ala., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Debris is scattered after a tornado blew a home off its foundation in Beauregard, Ala., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Francis sent a telegram of condolences Wednesday to the bishop of Mobile, Alabama, the Most Rev. Thomas Rodi, saying he was saddened to learn of the “tragic loss of life and injuries” caused by the twister.

Francis prayed for peace and strength for the survivors, and that God “may grant eternal rest to the dead, especially the children, and healing and consolation to the injured and those who grieve.”

The tornado was an EF4 with winds estimated at 170 mph (274 kph) and carved a path of destruction up to nine-tenths of a mile (1.4 kilometers) wide in Alabama, scraping up the earth in a phenomenon known as “ground rowing,” the National Weather Service said. It traveled a remarkable 70 miles (113 kilometers) or so through Alabama and Georgia, where it caused more damage.

Carol Dean, right, cries while embraced by Megan Anderson and her 18-month-old daughter Madilyn, as Dean sifts through the debris of the home she shared with her husband, David Wayne Dean, who died when a tornado destroyed the house in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Carol Dean, right, cries while embraced by Megan Anderson and her 18-month-old daughter Madilyn, as Dean sifts through the debris of the home she shared with her husband, David Wayne Dean, who died when a tornado destroyed the house in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

It was the deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. since May 2013, when an EF5 twister killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma.

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Debris sits on the side of a road in a neighborhood devastated by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Debris sits on the side of a road in a neighborhood devastated by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
ADDED SHARED WITH-Carol Dean, right, is embraced by David Theo Dean as they sift through the debris of the home Carol shared with her husband and David's father, David Wayne Dean, who died when a tornado destroyed the house in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
ADDED SHARED WITH-Carol Dean, right, is embraced by David Theo Dean as they sift through the debris of the home Carol shared with her husband and David’s father, David Wayne Dean, who died when a tornado destroyed the house in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen helps recover belongings while sifting through the debris of a friend's home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen helps recover belongings while sifting through the debris of a friend’s home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Debris from a home litters a yard the day after a tornado blew it off its foundation, lower right, in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Debris from a home litters a yard the day after a tornado blew it off its foundation, lower right, in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Ashley Griggs, right, helps Joey Roush, left sift through what's left of his mother's home after it was destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Ashley Griggs, right, helps Joey Roush, left sift through what’s left of his mother’s home after it was destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen recovers a family photo while sifting through the debris of a friend's home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen recovers a family photo while sifting through the debris of a friend’s home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen helps recover belongings while sifting through the debris of a friend's home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen helps recover belongings while sifting through the debris of a friend’s home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Students, teachers and local residents hold a prayer circle in the gymnasium of Beauregard High School for those in their community that lost their lives in a Sunday night tornado on Monday, March 4, 2019, in Beauregard, Ala. (Curtis Compton//Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Students, teachers and local residents hold a prayer circle in the gymnasium of Beauregard High School for those in their community that lost their lives in a Sunday night tornado on Monday, March 4, 2019, in Beauregard, Ala. (Curtis Compton//Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
The uncle of AJ Hernandez describes chilling final moments for the 6-year-old when catastrophic tornado winds ripped the boy from his father’s arms. (March 5)
The uncle of AJ Hernandez describes chilling final moments for the 6-year-old when catastrophic tornado winds ripped the boy from his father’s arms. (March 5)
Jaron Washington was inside his Beauregard, Alabama home when he says Sunday’s tornado lifted it off its foundation and dropped it forty feet away. (March 5)
Jaron Washington was inside his Beauregard, Alabama home when he says Sunday’s tornado lifted it off its foundation and dropped it forty feet away. (March 5)