May 21, 2013
MOORE, Oklahoma (AP) — Emergency crews were nearing the end of their search for survivors Tuesday in the broken remnants of an
Oklahoma City suburb where massive tornado flattened homes and demolished an elementary school. Authorities lowered the death toll to 24, down from 51.
Fire Chief Gary Bird said that he’s “98 percent sure” there are no more survivors or bodies to recover under the rubble in Moore.
He said every damaged home had been searched at least once and that he’s hopeful the work could be completed by nightfall
Tuesday, though heavy rains slowed efforts.
Bird said no additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night.
The death toll included at least nine children. More than 200 people were treated at area hospitals.
“We will rebuild and we will regain our strength,” said Gov. Mary Fallin, who went on a flyover of the area and described it as “hard to look at.”
In Washington, President Barack Obama pledged urgent government help.
“In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured,” Obama said. “Among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew — their school.”
The storm left scores of blocks barren and dark in Moore, a community of 41,000 people 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.
The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most powerful type of twister. It estimated that the twister was at least half a mile (nearly a kilometer) wide.
Monday’s twister also came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Missouri, killing 158 people.
That May 22, 2011, tornado was the deadliest in the United States since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.