Monday, May 20, 2013

With video: Death toll passes 50 from monster Oklahoma tornado

Marking the start of tornado season, a mile-wide tornado with winds up to 200 mph killed at least 51 people Monday afternoon across southern Oklahoma City and its suburbs, according to news reports.

A story by USA Today said the state medical examiner's office confirmed the number of deaths, saying the toll was expected to rise. Extreme damage was reported in Moore, where two elementary schools were destroyed including one that took a direct hit, USA Today reported. Several children were pulled alive from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School but there were no reports of rescues or casualties at Briarwood Elementary.

Hospitals have reported treated at least 120 injured, including about 70 children, some from Plaza Towers. Majority of patients being treated at Integris Southwest Medical Center were in critical condition. The OU Medical Center was treating 20 patients, including eight children. More than 60 patients were being treated at Norman Regional Medical Center, some in critical condition, said a hospital spokeswoman.

The preliminary rating of the tornado that hit Moore at 3:17 p.m. CT is at least an EF-4, which means speeds from 166 to 200 mph, the National Weather Service said. The NWS in Norman said a tornado warning was in effect Monday afternoon for 16 minutes before the twister developed. Earlier in the day, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri - also known as Tornado Alley - had been under a tornado watch. On Sunday, another high-powered tornado left two people dead in Oklahoma as one of 24 reports of tornadoes in five states.

Rescue crews are working hard to find survivors that are trapped in their homes. Gov. Mary Fallin declared an emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties. The threat of twisters comes less than a week after tornadoes left six dead, dozens injured and hundreds of homes destroyed in Texas and just shy of the two-year anniversary of the Joplin, Missouri, twister.

Let us keep the victims and rescue crews in our prayers.

Check out this raw video of a tornado in Oklahoma on Sunday.

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