Rescuers are pulling children from the wreckage of two elementary schools after a tornado 1½ kilometres wide flattened entire neighbourhoods. At least 51 people died.
At least 51 people were killed when an enormous tornado 1½ kilometres wide roared through the suburbs of Oklahoma City Monday afternoon.
The mega-storm, with winds up to 320 km/h, flattened entire neighbourhoods, set buildings on fire and heavily damaged a hospital and two elementary schools.
There were scenes of devastation in Moore, Newcastle and Oklahoma City. Block after block of Moore, a suburb to the south, lay in ruins, with heaps of debris piled up where homes used to be. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside.
The death toll of 51 was expected to rise, said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer of the Oklahoma chief medical examiner’s office. Some 20 to 30 schoolchildren were missing and feared dead beneath the rubble, KFOR television reported, citing unnamed officials from the scene.
Rescue workers raced against the setting sun to find survivors in Oklahoma as the dangerous storm system threatened as many as 10 U.S. states with more twisters.
The U.S. National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was rated at EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister.
Dozens of people were injured, according to officials at three hospitals. Integris Southwest Medical Centre in Oklahoma City, which has the biggest emergency room in the state, was receiving numerous patients, said Integris spokeswoman Brooke Cayot. A number of them were in critical condition.
“They (injured) are coming in minute by minute,” said Cayot.
An Associated Press photographer saw several children being pulled out of what was left of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore. Rescue workers lifted children from the rubble and passed them down a human chain to a triage centre set up in the school’s parking lot.
CNN reported 75 students and staff had sought refuge in a hallway in the school upon hearing that the tornado was approaching
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