Almost 100 people may have perished in a major disaster in the United States as a huge tornado swept through the country ripping through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs and shredding everything in sight.
Emergency rescuers and volunteers through Tuesday morning are making efforts to salvage people and properties from the aftermath of the nature’s onslaught which has revealed a major destruction. Many ares have been plagued with power outage with power lines falling victims of the effect of the tornado.
Rescuers continued to work through the early morning hours Tuesday as many were lucky to be pulled out of rubble and many have been unlucky as the death toll is touching a hundred numbers.
At least 20 children have been counted to be among the dead as the tornado flattened whatever was in its path, including several residential houses and at least two schools.
The New York Times reported that much of the tornado damage appeared to be in the suburb of Moore, where rescue workers struggled to make their way through the debris-clogged streets and around downed power lines to those who are feared trapped under mountains of rubble.
Amy Elliott, the spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner, said at least 91 people had died, and officials said that toll was likely to climb. Hospitals reported at least 145 people injured, 70 of them children.
Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore was reduced to a pile of twisted metal and toppled walls. Rescue workers were able to pull several children from the rubble, but on Monday evening, crews were still struggling to cut through fallen beams and clear debris amid reports that dozens of students were trapped.
At Briarwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, on the border with Moore, cars were thrown through the facade and the roof was torn off.
“Numerous neighborhoods were completely leveled,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department said by telephone. “Neighborhoods just wiped clean.”
He said debris and damage to roadways, along with heavy traffic, were hindering emergency responders as they raced to the affected areas.
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office in Moore said emergency workers were struggling to assess the damage.
“Please send us your prayers,” she said.
Shortly before midnight, the area near the Plaza Towers school was eerily quiet and shrouded in darkness from a widespread power outage. Local authorities and F.B.I. agents patrolled the streets, restricting access to the school.
Half a mile from the affected school on Southwest Fourth Street were painful sounds of barking dogs, so exhausted after hard struggles for survival laying on on wet pavement which were littered with debris. Hovering in the sky, a helicopter shined a spotlight on the damaged neighborhoods. In the darkness, the century-old Moore Cemetery was a ghostly wreck: women’s clothing and blankets clung to the branches of tilting trees and twisted sheets of metal ripped from nearby buildings or homes were strewn among the graves. Many headstones had been pushed flat to the ground by the wind.
Brooke Cayot, a spokeswoman for Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City, said 58 patients had come in by about 9 p.m. An additional 85 were being treated at Oklahoma University Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
“They’ve been coming in minute by minute,” Ms. Cayot said.
Moore was the scene of another huge tornado, in May 1999, in which winds reached record speeds of 302 m.p.h., and experts said severe weather was common in the region this time of year.
But the region has rarely had a tornado as big and as powerful as the one on Monday.
Television showed destruction spread over a vast area, with blocks upon blocks of homes and businesses destroyed. Residents, some partly clothed and apparently caught by surprise, were shown picking through rubble. Several structures were on fire, and cars had been tossed around, flipped over and stacked on top of each other.
According to CNN, messages of condolence keep pouring in as Pope Francis urged people to join him in praying for the families of those who died in the massive tornado seeking prayers especially for those who lost young children. He sent his message through a tweet Tuesday.
French President, Francois Hollande expressed his grief over the casualties and saluted the “mobilization” of citizens who tackled “this exceptional situation with courage and determination.”
Also, German Chancellor Angela Merkel passed along her condolences to President Obama over the casualties and destruction caused by the mammoth tornado: “The pictures of this catastrophe render us speechless and can only hint at the scope of the hurt,” Merkel told the president Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday sent a letter of condolence to US President Barack Obama and the American people,
“On behalf of the Government and people of Israel, I offer our heartfelt condolences to you and to the people of the United States on the massive tornado that struck in Oklahoma and exacted such a horrific toll in human life,” the letter reads.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy and their families at this difficult time.”
President Barak Obama has declared the area a disaster zone and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms which started May 18, 2013.
The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie counties.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.