Tornado rips through Oklahoma, killing dozens (VIDEO)



Kasey Clark sorts through the debris of her grandmother-in-law Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma.


Brett Deering

A massive, miles-long tornado touched down in Oklahoma on Monday, killing dozens of people and injuring as many as 237 people as it tore through towns near Oklahoma City.

Officials in Oklahoma City on Tuesday revised the official death toll down from initial estimates of 51 to 24, according to Reuters.

"We have got good news. The number right now is 24," said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer at the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner's Office. She said the initial toll of 51 may have included double-reported casualties.

However, speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Oklahoma's Gov. Mary Fallin said no accurate count of the death toll was available as rescuers were still working to recover survivors and bodies. She said the estimated number of injured stood at 237.

Fallin instructed those seeking assistance to call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit

The National Weather Service said the tornado had reached the top EF-5 level, with winds reaching 200 miles per hour, reported the Associated Press

President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Tuesday morning, promising that Oklahomans would "have all the resources they need at their disposal" in the wake of "one of the most destructive" storms in America's history.

Obama declared a major disaster in the state on Monday evening, allowing aid to flow into the state.

"Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today and we'll back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes," Obama said on Tuesday.

"The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes."

Although the president acknowledged that the full extent of damage and lives lost was still unknown, he stressed, "Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away."

Obama spoke after meeting with his disaster response team, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and top White House officials, according to the Associated Press.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Craig Fugate was expected in Oklahoma later on Tuesday to ensure the proper deployment of federal aid.

National Weather Service spokeswoman Keli Pirtle told the AP on Tuesday that the storm left a path 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide. It is the first EF-5-level tornado to hit the nation so far this year. 

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Anderson Cooper 360 earlier reported that at least 20 of those who died were feared to be children. The BBCthe Guardian and several other news outlets also reported a feared death toll of 91 early on Tuesday when reports suggested that 40 additional bodies had been found. Those reports remain unconfirmed.

The town of Moore was hit by catastrophic damage, with homes flattened, cars flung through the air and two elementary schools destroyed.

Several children were pulled out of the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary alive, but there were no immediate reports of the number rescued from Briarwood Elementary. Of the 120 injured and being treated at three hospitals, about 70 were children.

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Moore Medical Center was also severely damaged when its roof was ripped off. No one was injured, but staff had to relocate 30 patients to nearby Norman and another hospital.

Witnesses reported seeing rescue workers pulling bodies from the rubble in several locations.

"Numerous neighborhoods are completely leveled," Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department told The New York Times by telephone. "Neighborhoods just wiped clean."

State Governor Mary Fallin gave a press conference at around 9 p.m. local time Monday and said authorities had asked that civilians stay away from the disaster area.

"We have tremendous traffic jams on highways that took a direct hit and there are many sides streets jammed up," she noted.

Fallin also said that she would be taking an aerial tour of the area tomorrow with the National Guard.

"Please know we are working as quickly as we can. There are a tremendous amount of people involved," Fallin said. "For those who are not involved please stay away from the direct vicinity so that we can take in the type of services that we need."

Oklahoma resident David Massey posted several powerful videos of damage from the tornado using the video sharing app Vine: