Even for a city toughened by disaster, Moore, Oklahoma in the US has never seen this kind of devastation. A massive, howling tornado pulverised a vast swath of the Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday, chewing up homes and businesses, and severely damaging a hospital and two elementary schools.
The storm carved a trail through the area as much as two miles wide and 22 miles long, officials said.
The storm killed dozens, but amid the confusion of search and rescue efforts, a precise death toll was hard to come by.
Firefighters, police, National Guard members and volunteers worked by flashlight overnight and into Tuesday morning, crawling across piles of debris in a determined search for survivors and victims.
“We’re a tough state. This is a tough community,” said Lt Gov Todd Lamb. “There is hope. We always have hope. We always have faith.”
Plaza Towers Elementary School was in the direct path of the storm. About 75 students and staff members were hunkered down in Plaza Towers when the tornado struck.
The Oklahoma County medical examiner’s office said the death toll fhad been downgraded from 51 to at least 24.
“To date, 24 deceased victims of the tornado have been transported to our Oklahoma City office, and positive identifications have been made in the vast majority of those, and these are ready for return to their loved ones,” said spokeswoman Amy Elliott.Nine of the bodies are children.