News / USA

    On the Scene in Tornado Hit Town: 'Even Trees are Stripped of Everything'

    VOA correspondent Greg Flakus is at the site of the tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma. He spoke with English broadcaster David Byrd Tuesday afternoon about what he is seeing.

     Nathan Ulepich searches outside the back of his house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
    Nathan Ulepich searches outside the back of his house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
    Byrd: Greg, can you describe for our listeners what in looks like in this town?

    Flakus: The first thing you have to understand is not all of the town was affected, in fact it's only a very small area compared to the overall area. But it's a good 10 percent and certainly affected probably hundreds, maybe even a few thousand people. There were people's homes completely shattered. I'm standing right now in an area where you see mud and debris. Walking around, you have to be careful. There's a lot of debris and broken pieces of metal and that kind of thing in the mud. And it's amazing to think as you look at this is that these were once comfortable homes. These were places where families went to sleep at night in their beds, where they shared dinner. And now you look and all you see are scraps of broken wood and twisted metal. Even the trees have been stripped of everything. They're just like sticks coming out of the ground. They don't look alive. They don't look like a living thing. They look dead.

    Byrd: City officials have been reluctant to give a final death toll in this storm. You told me the number of people actually killed is still fluid. What are some the steps that the city is still taking to catalog or to find everybody who was either injured or who was killed.

    Flakus: One of the problems is that since electricity and most essential services were cut off in this town. Even in parts of town that weren't directly affected by the tornado, they don't have power. So they had to take people to other hospitals in Oklahoma City and in nearby Norman and other communities. You also have a lot or firemen and policemen and officials from other parts of the state here, so just getting all that coordinated is kind of a problem. And they haven't had time to fully assess it. So they say it'll be a few days before they get that worked out. They aren't even sure, really, about the exact number of homes destroyed and businesses. I walked along a part of where I'm right near right now and you had a row of businesses in kind of a strip mall. All of them completely destroyed. I talked to one woman there who told me that in the meantime, all the employees are without work, The owner, of course, has no income coming in. And that's going to have a big impact on this town because you have many businesses that aren't functioning because they were destroyed, but many others, just because they don't have electricity or water or other services.

    Byrd: This town is located in what is referred to as 'Tornado Alley,' which is a strip through the central United States where this kind is storm is common. But this particular storm was a rare one. I understand this was an EF-5 tornado  the highest you can get on the measurement scale.

    Flakus: I'm not sure. The last I heard was E-4, but I've been out here in the muck and debris and I may not have heard that. But this town was hit by an E-5 tornado about 14 years ago and it's a pretty amazing thing. Somebody was saying that mathematically, the odds are just enormous that something like that would happen. There've only been about 10 of those really big storms recorded and two of them have happened here.

    Byrd: What's the spirit of the people like? Are they mostly still in shock or are they determined to rebuild?

    Flakus: They're for the most part determined to rebuild and neighbor helping neighbor, community coming together helping people. There's a great spirit here. I have, however, talked to a few people who've said 'I've had enough. These tornadoes that come every year and I want to move somewhere else.' Maybe they'll change their minds later but some of them I think were quite spooked by it. I've talked to a couple of people who have told me about certain psychological effects, how they jump and spook at noises and things when you have storm conditions as we did earlier today, people get nervous. they think 'Now what. Maybe another tornado.' So that psychological impact is going to linger for some time.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.