21 May 2013

Massive tornado rips through Oklahoma: over 90 people killed

Forty five minutes of twister terror that left 91 dead: Seven children found drowned in school and officials fear 24 more have perished after giant two-mile wide tornado pulverises Oklahoma A desperate search is underway for survivors after a giant two-mile wide tornado roared through the suburbs of Oklahoma leaving 91 dead, including seven children who drowned in a pool of water at their school. Plaza Towers Elementary was in the direct path of the giant twister and today rescuers were combing the debris to find 24 students who went missing after the building took a direct hit during 45 minutes of terror yesterday afternoon. President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local efforts in Moore. Another elementary school, homes and a hospital were among the buildings leveled by the 200mph winds leaving residents of the town of about 50,000 people stunned at the devastation and loss of life. At least 240 people are injured - 60 of these children - though these numbers continue to rise. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin expressed her grief on behalf of her state for the parents of the missing children, aged between five and eight, as the death toll across the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore escalated. 'Our hearts are broken for the parents that are wondering about the state of their children that had been in the schools that have been hit today,' Fallin said. 'I know that there are families wondering where their loved ones are.' She added that rescuers were 'looking under every single piece of debris' for the missing. Rescue teams, including 80 members of the National Guard and search dogs, had reported hearing cries for help from beneath the rubble of the flattened school but the screams reportedly stopped at around 6:30 p.m. local time. One teacher told Good Morning America that her students had to stay with her for hours until their parents could reach them. Because of the damage to the roads, 'parents walked for miles just to get to their children,' she said. 'They were out of breath and crying but just so happy to see them.' Block after block lay in ruins. Homes were crushed into piles of broken wood. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside. Frantic parents rushed to Plaza Towers Elementary moments after it was pummeled by the storm that has been given a preliminary rating of at least EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale but they were kept back so search teams could hear any survivors calling for help through the rubble. The families were later taken to a nearby church where they continued the harrowing wait for news of their children. Some, hoping their little ones had made it out alive, posted photographs of their children on Facebook and Twitter, desperately hoping they'd be reunited. According to reports, a number of the 24 missing students were located in churches and triage centers on Monday, though it's unclear how many. The Oklahoma medical examiner said 20 of the 91 expected to have been killed were children. The 20 youngsters include the seven Plaza Towers students as well as a three-month-old baby and a four-year-old child. Another three adults were killed at a 7-Eleven. The office had already confirmed 51 dead and had been told by emergency services to expect 40 more bodies found in the debris, but had not yet received them. Also among those killed, is a family of four with a baby near 4th St. and Telephone Rd. in Moore. Officials said the family tried to take shelter in a freezer. Troopers told KOCO-5 that 101 people who were alive but trapped have now been found and rescued, but the search continues for others beneath the rubble. After the monster tornado struck, around 80 National Guard members were deployed and first responders with dogs were drafted in to help search the debris at Plaza Towers elementary, hoping for a miracle.

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