News / USA

    Dozens Dead as Massive Tornado Hits Oklahoma

    A woman is pulled out from under tornado debris at the Plaza Towers School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    A woman is pulled out from under tornado debris at the Plaza Towers School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
    A tornado with 320 kilometer per hour winds has killed at least 51 people and caused massive destruction in the central U.S. state of Oklahoma, destroying two schools and entire neighborhoods.

    The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office said the death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers move deeper into the hardest-hit areas.

    Loading...

    The 1.6 kilometer-wide tornado hit Monday afternoon and destroyed large swaths of Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, injuring dozens of people, sending debris flying and setting buildings on fire.

    Rescue workers have pulled several children alive out of the rubble of the schools.   

    Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations.

    Fallin also spoke with President Barack Obama, who asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide any assistance she needs.

    The severe weather outbreak was expected to spread across other parts of the Plains and the Midwest. An earlier tornado killed two people in Oklahoma Sunday.

    This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.
    x
    This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.
    This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.
    The National Weather Service placed parts of five storm-battered states - Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas - under a tornado watch, meaning conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop.

    The same suburb of Oklahoma City was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the Earth's surface.

    A tornado transformed the part of Moore directly in its path from a quiet middle class community into a field of debris. Rescue teams were digging through piles of wrecked wood, twisted metal and other rubble searching for victims who may have been trapped.

    Rick Smith, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Moore, says the danger has not yet passed.

    "We are going to be dealing with this for several hours it looks like and then, hopefully, after today it will quiet down for a while," said Smith.

    How is a Major Disaster Declared in US?

    • A state's governor determines recovery is beyond the resources of state and local governments
    • FEMA works with the state to assess damage
    • Assessment looks at effect on people and businesses, number of people displaced, threat to public health, impact on infrastructure
    • By declaring a major disaster, the federal government can supplement recovery efforts ad make funding available
    • Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and low-cost loans
    Source: White House, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
    Smith says storms are common at this time of year in Oklahoma and nearby states, an area often called "Tornado Alley." He says the monster tornadoes are the result of humid air close to the ground and wind conditions both near the ground and high up in the atmosphere.

    "We have had very strong winds aloft and at the surface that creates what we call wind shear, that makes the storms start to rotate, and then we have had upper level disturbance, a storm system in the upper levels of the atmosphere, that moved out across Oklahoma this afternoon and the storms went from nothing to intense, dangerous storms in less than an hour," he said.

    No one can predict exactly where a tornado will come down within the wide area covered by a storm system, but Rick Smith says Storm Prediction Center forecasters do everything possible to warn people.

    "We were in close contact with emergency school systems and everything and our forecast and our information indicated that this was going to be as bad or worse than yesterday and it looks like that has definitely been the case," he said.

    Tornadoes on Sunday killed two people in communities south and east of Oklahoma City. On Monday, legislators in the state Capitol cancelled sessions and took shelter along with state government employees as the storm clouds passed over the city. A full assessment of death, injury and damage from these tornadoes is likely to take days and the threat of more tornadoes in the area is far from over.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora