A heavily damaged vehicle sits near the front of the University of Southern Mississippi on Hardy Street in Hattiesburg Mississippi after a tornado passed through the city.

Several powerful tornadoes ripped through the southern US states of Mississippi and Alabama late on Sunday, injuring at least 12 people and damaging or destroying hundreds of homes and businesses, authorities said.

Heavily damaged was the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) said early on Monday.

The city of Hattiesburg in Mississippi's Forrest County bore the brunt of the storms.

County officials reported 10 injuries and numerous power outages.

Two people were critically injured in neighbouring Lamar County, said MEMA officials.

Other regions also reported multiple injuries, most of them light, according to local media.

The tornadoes tore off roofs and downed trees and power lines throughout the affected areas. - AFP