US: 91 people, including 20 children, are feared killed by Oklahoma tornado

US: 91 people, including 20 children, are feared killed by Oklahoma tornado


(Medeshi)- At least 91 people, including 20 children, are feared killed by a huge tornado which tore through Oklahoma City suburbs, officials in the US state say.
Worst hit was Moore, south of the city, where neighbourhoods were flattened and schools destroyed by winds of up to 200mph (320km/h).
About 120 people are being treated in hospitals.
President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma.

He also ordered federal authorities to join in the search efforts which are continuing throughout the night.
Monday’s twister hit Moore, a suburb of about 55,000 people, at 14:56 (19:56 GMT) and remained on the ground for about 45 minutes.
The official death toll is 51, but local authorities say the figure is expected to rise as another 40 bodies have been found.
The Oklahoma chief medical examiner’s office said at least 20 children were among the dead.
Plaza Towers Elementary school took a direct hit: the storm tore off the building’s roof and knocked down walls.
“The school was flattened. The walls were pancaked in,” Oklahoma’s Lt Gov Todd Lamb told the BBC.
“There’s still roughly two dozen children that are missing. There have been some bodies recovered from that school and it’s absolutely horrific and devastating.”
Another school – Briarwood Elementary – was also damaged, and teachers were later seen leading pupils out to safety.
Oklahoma Gov Mary Fallin said it was a “tragic” day.
More than 200 Oklahoma National Guardsmen as well as out-of-state personnel have been called in to assist the search-and-rescue effort.

Associated Press/Steve Gooch – This aerial photo shows the remains of houses in Moore, Okla., following a tornado Monday, May 20, 2013.


Glenn Rusk hugs his neighbor Sherie Loman outside her home north of Briarwood Elementary School after a tornado moved through the area, in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman
JoAnn Anderson sorts through the rubble of her home after a tornado on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Moore, Okla. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead in Oklahoma says many of tornadoes in the region hit the open plain, but this one struck a residential area.
Many houses are built on hard ground without basements, so many people did not have recourse to shelter, our correspondent adds.
‘Most powerful tornado’
Shocked survivors spoke of the tornado’s power.
“We locked the cellar door once we saw it coming, it got louder and next thing you know is you see the latch coming undone,” survivor Ricky Stover said.
“We couldn’t reach for it and it ripped open the door and just glass and debris started slamming on us and we thought we were dead, to be honest.”
Melissa Newton said: “There’s shingles and pieces of sheet rock and wood in our yard and all across our neighbourhood. Some homes are completely gone. It’s devastating.”
James Rushing said he had hurried to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where his foster son Aiden was a pupil, to see it destroyed by the storm.
“About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said Monday’s tornado had generated winds of up to 200mph.
“It’s certainly the most powerful tornado that I’ve ever dealt with in my 20 years with the weather service,” NWS meteorologist Rick Smith in Norman, Oklahoma, told the BBC.
The town of Moore was hit by a severe tornado in May 1999, which had the highest winds ever recorded on Earth.
But Betsy Randolph of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol told local news station Skynews 9 that the damage on Monday appeared to exceed that of the 1999 tornado.
Tornadoes, hail and high winds also hit Iowa and Kansas, part of a storm system stretching from Texas to Minnesota.
On Sunday, a tornado smashed a trailer park on Highway 102 near Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s state medical examiner confirmed earlier on Monday that two people had been killed in the area. BBC