News / USA

Foreign Students in Oklahoma Confront Tornado Threat

A tornado-damaged bedroom with clothes hanging in the closet is pictured in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 22, 2013.
A tornado-damaged bedroom with clothes hanging in the closet is pictured in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 22, 2013.
For many Americans in the nation’s center, tornadoes are a frightening fact of life. But for foreign students, usually from countries where tornadoes never occur, twisters can be an even scarier experience. Such was the case this past Monday when a tornado devastated the U.S. town of Moore, Oklahoma, killing at least 24 people and leaving thousands homeless.

“It was such a bad thing to see and experience,” says Manoj Venkatesan, a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma.  Venkatesan, who is from India, was about 13 kilometers away from the tornado.  “We had heard the alert for 10 minutes before the tornado.  As soon as we heard the siren, I went to the campus and then went down the basement.  It was scary.”

When he heard the siren go off, he did not expect the tornado to be as big and damaging as it was. Venkatesan says he hopes life returns back to normal soon.

The University of Oklahoma is about 16 kilometers from Moore and near Oklahoma City, the largest city in the southwestern state.  Oklahoma is in a region often referred to as Tornado Alley - which stretches from Texas north toward Canada and east toward Ohio and Kentucky.  Those areas frequently experience tornadoes - violent rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground.  They can travel scores of kilometers, destroying buildings in their path.

Most communities in the central United States use sirens to alert people of an approaching tornado. Once the siren goes off, people are urged to take shelter - usually in basements or in sturdy buildings.

Sitta Tarawally is from Sierra Leone and an international student at the University of Oklahoma. “I was at the university and went to the basement after the siren went on,” she said.  In Oklahoma, people expect tornadoes every now and then, she said, adding she could tell that something was different about it.  “We expected something worse than before,” she said.

Another international student, Mohammed Aldabbous, says few natural disasters happen in his country, Saudi Arabia, so this was his first time he experienced such a storm.  He was 10 minutes away from the tornado.  “When I heard the siren going on, it was a tragedy, I was shocked,” he said.  Aldabbous said that luckily, the place where he stayed was not damaged.

“I saw the tornado from away and heard the siren everywhere.  It was scary,” Aldabbous said. “I feel very sorry about what happened in Oklahoma.”

The University of Oklahoma, which just finished its spring semester, has opened its dormitories to people who lost their homes.  People and companies have started to donate money to help the tornado victims, and President Barack Obama has promised that Oklahomans will get the aid they need.  President Obama travels to Moore this Sunday to meet with survivors and first responders and get a firsthand look at the devastation.

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs