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article image91 dead in Oklahoma City suburbs from mile-wide tornado (video)

By Anne Sewell     May 21, 2013 in Environment
Oklahoma City - At least 91 people are dead, including 40 children, after a record-breaking tornado tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed including two schools. (Updated)
Meteorologists reported winds of up to 200mph as the huge, two-mile wide tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, causing severe damage to several housing developments in the area. Two schools were flattened by the storm.
According to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office, there is a total of 91 dead so far as the result of the massive tornado and apparently 40 of these are children. There were over 233 injured, including 70 children and many of the victims are being treated at two local hospitals.
According to the Atlantic, the tornado on Monday appears to be the deadliest since 2011 and was one of the worst in the last 20 years.
The town of Moore lies in the center of "Tornado Alley", which stretches from north Texas to South Dakota and is renowned for its frequent and strong tornado systems.
A National Weather Service alert posted on Sunday read: “You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter. Complete destruction of neighborhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals.”
Rescue efforts are being hampered, as even officers who know the area well were unable to locate landmarks to navigate through the disaster area, especially after the sun went down.
“Numerous neighborhoods were completely leveled,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department told the New York Times by telephone. “Neighborhoods just wiped clean.”
According to officials, 75 teachers and children took shelter at Plaza Towers Elementary in the town of Moore. The school was flattened by the passing tornado and had its roof torn off, and was the site of a rescue effort for several hours after the storm had passed.
According to KFOR, 4th, 5th and 6th graders evacuated to a church in the area, but younger children stayed in the school. Seven students were reportedly found drowned at the bottom of the wreckage on Monday evening, although several students and teachers were pulled out of the wreckage during the day. Apparently one first-year teacher told a group of children to shelter in a restroom as the tornado hit the building, and all of these children survived the experience.
Rescue attempts continue at the school, but officials do not expect to find further survivors.
Oklahoma's Lt Gov Todd Lamb told the BBC, "The school was flattened. The walls were pancaked in."
"There's still roughly two dozen children that are missing. There have been some bodies recovered from that school and it's absolutely horrific and devastating," Lamb added.
The bodies of a man, woman and a child were found under the debris of a collapsed 7-Eleven store and liquor shop, where several people had taken shelter.
Moore was last hit hard by a tornado in 1999, which killed 36 people, with the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface, measured at 302mph.
The storm was initially classified by the National Weather Service as an EF4, the second-strongest type of tornado, with winds of up to 200 mph. However, local reporters on the scene, who had experienced the 1999 storm, believe that the damage caused by the latest tornado is much worse.
"It's certainly the most powerful tornado that I've ever dealt with in my 20 years with the weather service," NWS meteorologist Rick Smith in Norman, Oklahoma, told the BBC.
Update:
Reuters is reporting that President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, and has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local efforts in Moore after the deadliest U.S. tornado since two years ago, when 161 people were killed in a strong tornado in Joplin, Missouri.
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Below is a video reportedly uploaded by a Moore family showing the scene as they emerged from their storm cellar and viewed the wreckage around them.
Raw Video: Deadly Oklahoma tornado
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