Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Oklahoma tornado: Children pulled alive from wreckage as rescuers search for survivors with many believed to be trapped under debris

SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20:  Lonnie Langston stands near his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Lonnie Langston stands near his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma
A child calls to his father after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013.
Lee Hoyle, of Chickasaw Nation search and rescue, digs through the debris of a mobile home in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park, destroyed by Sunday's tornado, near Shawnee, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. The tornado that slammed into Oklahoma on Sunday is now blamed for two deaths. Authorities say two men in their 70s have been found dead in or near a mobile home park outside of Shawnee. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
Shawnee firefighters assist driver Marco Corr as he is taken from the cab of his overturned truck, in Shawnee, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. Corr was taken out of the cab through the front windshield. A tornado caused extensive damage along Interstate 40 at the junction with U.S. 177. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)
A tornado caused extensive damage along I-40 at the junction with US 177 on the west side of Shawnee, Okla., Sunday evening, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)
Seven-year-old Katrina Ash, right, holds a doll as she waits in the back of a truck with her grandfather, Michael Bowen, left, after a tornado ripped through their neighbourhood near Dale, Oklahoma, Sunday, May 19, 2013. Residents are not being allowed back into the neighbourhood as search and rescue efforts take place. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
Seven-year-old Katrina Ash, left, watches with her mother, Amber Ash, right, as heavy equipment is brought into their tornado damaged neighbourhood near Dale, Oklahoma, Sunday, May 19, 2013. Residents are not being allowed into the neighbourhood as search and rescue operations continue. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows a car pile-up outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows a car pile-up outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows homes flattened outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV) MANDATORY CREDIT
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows a house fire outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)
Kay James holds her cat as she sits in her driveway after her home was destroyed by the tornado that hit the area near 149th and Drexel on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Yellow caution tape marks off the area surrounding the heavily damaged Moore Medical Center after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Dana Ulepich searches inside a room left standing at the back of her house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Nathan Ulepich searches outside the back of his house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: A Goodwill donation station is surrounded by debris after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Chain link fence posts stripped and bent mark the boundary between two houses destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Damaged vehicles are piled up in front of the Moore Warren Theater after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Cars marked with an orange 'X', denoting they had been checked for occupants, are piled up in what was the front entrance to the damaged Moore Medical Center after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Chain link fence posts stripped and bent mark the boundary between two houses destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Cars marked with an orange 'X', denoting they had been checked for occupants, are piled up in what was the front entrance to the damaged Moore Medical Center after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: A vehicle lies upside down in the road after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Debris covers the ground after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Massive piles of debris cover the ground after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: (L - R) Yvonne Barragar, Joe Marshall and Barbara Garcia sit in front of Barragar's destroyed house after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Philip Gotcher stands in the rubble of his house after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Debris covers the ground after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Philip Gotcher and his daughter Monica stand in the rubble of his house after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Carlos and Kim Caudillo stand in the debris of their home after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Volunteers chain saw a fallen tree knocked down by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A power line pole bent by a tornado stands over a street May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Candice Lopez (L) and Stephanie Davis help clean debris from Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Volunteers help clean out Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Lonnie Langston talks about his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A home sits damaged after a tornado moved through the area May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Kasey Clark sorts through the debris of her grandmother-in-law Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: ers help with cleanup of Tom and Ronda Clark's property after it was damaged by a tornadMay 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A piece of corrugated tin is draped over a power line after a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Volunteers help clean out Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A volunteer helps clean up Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A volunteer helps clean up Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: An electrical pole lies on a Pottawatomie County road after a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A home sits damaged after a tornado moved through the area May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

A huge tornado that tore through Oklahoma City suburbs has killed at least 51 people, including 20 children, officials in the United States say.

As dusk began to fall, the state medical examiner put the death toll at 51 people with children among those killed. Of those seven were children from a single elementary school that had been ripped apart by the twister, which was said to have sustained circulating winds of 200mph or more. Debris from the twister dropped like rain in Tulsa, a hundred miles away.

 

But with rescue operations barely underway officials made clear that the numbers wounded and killed was likely to rise quickly. At least 120 patients had been rushed to area hospitals of whom 10 had critical injuries, officials said. Also among those admitted for treatment were more than 70 children, they added.

 

The tornado, which for now is measured as an EF4 but might yet be upgraded to a top-level EF5, ploughed through the community of Moore just to the south of Oklahoma City in the early hours of the afternoon. That in itself was unusual. It is more usual for twisters to strike in the evening hours, when schools, at least, have emptied out. The first warnings were issued at about 3.40 pm local time. The twister began its deadly march about eight minutes later.

 

News network choppers watched as the giant funnel cloud marched with unbearable slowness as commentators speculated where it was landing, block by block. Suddenly, as the nation watched, the funnel ‘roped out’, the moment when the twister dies.  It was then only a few minutes before same helicopters turned into the area to see what kind of damage had been done. Very quickly, the terrifying of the carnage became clear.

tornado.jpg 

As ever with tornadoes, the distance between destroyed and untouched could have been measured in feet. But structures that fell on the wrong side of the dividing line were often shredded. As emergency crews rushed in a first, desperate focus of activity was the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where 75 young students and staff were taking shelter when the twister hit. Almost nothing of the school building was left standing when it had passed.

 

Last night, rescue crews were swarming across the heaps of rubbish that the school had been reduced to, moving gingerly, listening for signs of life below and trying not to dislodge debris that might hurt anyone buried beneath.  There was concern that as many as 25 pupils were still not accounted for as darkness fell.  But in those few hours of daylight that rescuers had left several of the children were successfully pulled from the rubble alive.

 

“About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart,” said James Rushing, who had rushed to the school moments before the tornado hit.  His 5-year-old foster son was enrolled in class there.  Children who survived spoke of how teachers had lied down on top of them to offer some modicum of protection.

 

In May of 1999, the same Oklahoma City suburb was hit by a tornado so powerful it produced the fastest winds ever recorded on the surface of the Earth – just over 300 MPH. It is meanwhile exactly two years since a single tornado killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri, just the other side of the Oklahoma state line.

 

President Barack Obama rang Governor Mary Fallin pledging federal support to address the tragedy. “We need lots of prayers tonight,” the Governor said.

 

“The storm developed very, very rapidly, and we believe there were children in the (Plaza Towers) school. We don't know if any of them were

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