21 May 2013, 04:28

Oklahoma tornado kills 51, including 20 children, death toll expected to rise - state medical examiner's office

At least 51 casualties including a four year old child and a three-month-old baby have been reported after a historic tornado swept through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, devastating hundreds of buildings including two schools. Meteorologists reported winds up to 200 miles per hour. (VIDEO)

Monday's storm appeared to be the deadliest tornado since 2011, and one of the worst in the last 20 years according to The Atlantic. The town lies well in the center of "Tornado Alley," an area running from north Texas to South Dakota and west of the Mississippi river, known for frequent and powerful tornado systems.

“The whole city looks like a debris field,” said Mayor Glenn Lewis of the city of Moore.

Photo: AFP

Officials say that 75 children and teachers took shelter at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, which was essentially flattened by the passing tornado, and was the site of a rescue effort for several hours after the storm had passed.

Winds from the tornado tore the roof off, and parents had to be kept back as it was too loud to hear screams for help. Several children were pulled out alive from the debris during the day, with officials reporting that teachers had shielded students with their own bodies.

Seven students at the elementary school were found drowned at the bottom of the wreckage Monday evening, and no additional survivors were expected according to local media at the scene.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed a total of 51 fatalities so far as a result of today's tornadoes, 20 of which are reported to be children. In addition, over 140 people, including around 70 children, are being treated at two local hospitals.

According to preliminary reports, the wind speed inside the funnel could have been up to 320 kilometers per hour and the width of the tornado from 1.5 to 3 kilometers. 

Massive tornado outside Oklahoma City, several casualties reported

A severe storm has generated baseball-sized hail, high winds and at least 28 tornadoes in the Midwest, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa. Residents remain in hiding as meteorologists forecast that the severe weather conditions will continue to generate destructive twisters.

A large tornado touched down in Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City on Monday, and seems to have caused catastrophic damage to several housing developments, and at least two schools in the area. Local television news deployed a helicopter to track the tornado as it moved through the area, and then began to survey the extensive destruction to the region.

Photo: AFP

Officials say that 75 children and teachers took shelter at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, which was essentially flattened by the passing tornado, and was the site of an ongoing search effort. Several children were pulled out from the debris so far, with officials reporting that teachers had shielded students with their own bodies.

As many as 24 children and staff members are thought to have been killed at Plaza Towers. Meanwhile, students at another local school, Briarwood Elementary, were accounted for and moved to a safe location.

Photo: AFP

CBS confirmed multiple casualties, including a three month baby and a four-year-old child. There was also a report of the bodies of a man, woman and child found at a 7-Eleven convenience store.

Voice of Russia, RT, CBS News, BBC, Reuters, RIA

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