An enormous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, killing at least 51 people, including 20 children Monday. The twister pulverized entire city blocks, left behind miles of mangled cars and splintered wood, and destroyed an elementary school where seven children were found dead.
Crews frantically searched the wreckage and were only beginning to get a sense of the destruction when night fell hours later. Officials warned the death toll could climb. At one hospital, 85 patients, including 65 children, were being treated for minor to critical injuries.
“The whole city looks like a debris field,” said Mayor Glenn Lewis of the city of Moore, which appeared to be the hardest hit.
At least seven of the dead children were killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School, where the tornado tore the roof off the school about 3 p.m. A teacher told NBC affiliate KFOR that she draped herself on top of six children in a bathroom to shelter them. Officials said the dead children drowned in a pool of water at the decimated school.
It was not clear how many children still were missing. Students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade were evacuated to a church, but students in lower grades had sheltered in place, KFOR reported. More than two hours after the tornado struck, several children were pulled out alive.
NBC’s Brian Williams and NBC’s Al Roker report on the aftermath of a tornado, which is believed to have been up to a mile wide, and left a huge path of destruction as it cut across Moore, Oklahoma.
The twister was a mile wide at its base, according to The Weather Channel, and a reporter for KFOR said the tornado kicked up a cloud of debris perhaps two miles wide. The National Weather Service initially classified the storm as an EF4, the second-strongest type, with winds of 166 to 200 mph.
“It seems that our worst fears have happened today,” said Bill Bunting, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Norman, Okla.
Even before the death toll began to climb, television footage showed a landscape shattered — not the arbitrary damage of a tornado that leaves some homes untouched, but vast and utter obliteration.
Emergency workers stepped gingerly around piles of wreckage left on the foundations of homes. Other people simply walked around dazed, marveling that nothing was left of their houses — and in many cases that they themselves were alive. Fires broke out in several places.
“I lost everything,” one man said as he walked through the ruins of a horse farm. “We might have one horse left out of all of them.”
Tiffany Thronesberry told The Associated Press that her mother, Barbara Jarrell, called her and screamed: “Help! Help! I can’t breathe! My house is on top of me!”
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- Two Children, Four Others Feared Dead From Oklahoma Tornado (hollywoodlife.com)
- Massive tornado rips through Moore, Oklahoma; 51 killed, more feared dead (thegreatone22.wordpress.com)
- WATCH: Terrifying Oklahoma Tornado Time Lapse Footage (huffingtonpost.com)
- Tornado in Oklahoma City Suburb Causes Widespread Destruction (kcrg.com)
- Two Schools Destroyed By Oklahoma Tornado – Rescuers Search For 75 People (businessinsider.com)
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