US rescuers search for tornado survivors


Rescuers have sifted through rubble searching for survivors after a 3km-wide tornado packing 320kph-strong winds devastated Oklahoma City suburbs, killing at least 51 people, injuring at least 230 and leaving dozens missing.
The Oklahoma medical examiner’s office said on Tuesday that 20 children were among those confirmed dead and the death toll was expected to rise to 91 people. US President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in the state.
Oklahoma City Police Department Lieutenant Kevin Parton said rescuers were searching for victims as police and National Guard secured the disaster scene and conducted patrols at the centre of the devastation in Moore, a community of about 50,000 people to the south of Oklahoma City. “There’s still emergency workers inside that are doing recovery efforts of the bodies of the victims,” Parton said. “We’re always hopeful that we’ll find someone still alive inside the rubble but being realistic I would say probably not.”
Moore was strewn with debris and many residents were without power and water in the structures left still standing in the most severe of a series of savage storms to hit the state on Sunday and Monday. The tornado razed two schools and ripped off the roof of a medical centre.
School collapsed: The tornado covered about 30km of ground as it demolished buildings including Plaza Towers Elementary School, where about two dozen children had sought shelter inside from the storm when the building collapsed and trapped them in the rubble.
At least 20 children died there and officials said the number could climb. At least 45 of the 230 people known to have been injured were children, according to area hospitals. Families anxiously waited at Moore churches to hear if their loved ones were all right. A man with a megaphone stood on Monday night near St Andrews United Methodist Church and called out the names of surviving children as parents waited nearby. Another elementary school, homes and a hospital were among the buildings levelled in Moore. Obama, who was due to meet with his disaster response team before making a statement on the tornado disaster at 10am EDT (14:00 GMT), spoke with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to express his concern and ordered federal aid to help state and local recovery efforts. Fallin told reporters that “hearts are broken” for parents looking for their children. She declared 16 counties disaster areas and deployed the state National Guard and extra police to assist with rescue operations.
“We’re doing everything we can … to find anyone who might be injured or might be lost,” Fallin said.
More tornadoes possible: The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted a 10 percent chance of more tornadoes in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. It said parts of four other states – Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa – had a five percent risk of tornadoes. The area at greatest risk includes Joplin, Missouri, which on Wednesday will mark two years since a massive tornado killed 161 people. The latest tornado in Oklahoma came as the state was still recovering from a strong storm on Sunday with fist-sized hail and blinding rain.
Two men in their 70s died in the storm, said a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management. Thirty-nine people were injured around the state as storms toppled trees and tore up rooftops, she said.