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

Asian Stocks Plunge on Weak Factory Activity

Official survey finds China’s manufacturing sector contracted at its fastest pace in three years More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs