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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid