Search continues for dead after tornado rips through Moore, Oklahoma

Two schools and a hospital destroyed in the huge twister

The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry/AP

Rescue crews are digging through the rubble Tuesday morning after a deadly tornado ripped through Moore, a Oklahoma City suburb, killing dozens.

Reports Tuesday morning said as many as 91 people could have been killed, and at least 233 others had been injured. But later Tuesday, Amy Elliott, the spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner, said this number “is no longer accurate.” She said a confirmed 24 people were dead, reports The New York Times.

It is possible that the number of dead could rise, as rescuers comb through the wreckage of destroyed buildings, including two schools and a hospital, which were levelled during the storm.

CNN reported Tuesday morning that 101 people had been pulled from the rubble alive by rescue crews.

One of the schools destroyed was Plaza Towers Elementary, where local television reports say that a rescue mission had turned into a recovery mission after some children were pulled from the rubble of the school alive.

Reuters reported that seven children at Plaza Towers had been confirmed dead. Children at the school were instructed to remain in the hallway, which collapsed, reported KFOR-TV.

The three-kilometre-wide twister touched down Monday at 3:01 p.m. local time and remained on the ground for as long as 40 minutes, according to CNN. It left a path of destruction more than 35-kilometres long behind it.

The National Weather Service gave the tornado a rating of F4 on Enhanced Fujita Scale, reports Reuters, meaning winds were up to 322 km/h. The National Weather Centre was able to give citizens a 16-minute warning about the tornado, Reuters reports.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin spoke to the Today Show Tuesday morning from Moore, where she was aiding with operations. “It certainly is a very tragic day for the state of Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “And our hearts are broken. Broken for the parents that lost their children, broken for their families that have lost not only loved ones, but also their homes.”

Rescue and recovery efforts are being hampered in the town of about 50,000 people by the fact that cell, telephone and power services are out, she said.

President Barack Obama has declared the site a major disaster area on Monday, meaning that federal aid will be brought in to support local and state rescue and recovery efforts. Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, he said that the federal government would give Oklahoma whatever it needed.

“The people of Moore should know that their country will remain beside them, on the ground, as long as it takes,” Obama said.

“There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms,” he said. “And in time we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.”

This is not the first time Moore has dealt with a destructive tornado. On on May 3, 1999, a tornado in the same area killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes, doing an estimated $1 billion worth of damage.

There was also more severe weather predicted for parts of the Central United States Tuesday, with heavy winds, hail and, potentially, more tornadoes, reports CBS News. The severe weather is predicted to hit parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, but there is no further risk to Moore, Okla. at this time, reports CBS.

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