OKLAHOMA CITY — Emergency workers in the US are continuing to search for survivors of the massive tornado that tore through a suburb of Oklahoma City yesterday.
Rescuers worked through the night in the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital in Moore, the worst-hit area.
Neighbourhoods were flattened by winds of up to 200mph.
At least 24 people were confirmed dead, Oklahoma City’s medical examiner said. Earlier, the official death toll was put at 51 with another 40 bodies found.
“We have got good news. The number right now is 24,” Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer at the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, told reporters.
“The prior figure of 51 dead may have included some double-reported casualties.”
Earlier, the chief medical examiner’s office said at least 20 children were among the dead. It is not clear if this figure will be revised.
Emergency services are looking for residents trapped in shelters, cellars and the rubble, says the BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Moore.
Heavy-lifting equipment was deployed under bright floodlights as the operation went on through the night and continued as dawn broke.
More than 200 Oklahoma National Guardsmen as well as personnel from other states were called in to help in the search-and-rescue effort.
In the background, huge lightning strikes – every 20 to 30 seconds – could be seen as the weather remained unsettled.
President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma and ordered federal authorities to join in the search efforts.
Monday’s storm hit Moore, a suburb of about 55,000 people, at 15:01 (20:01 GMT) and remained on the ground for about 45 minutes.
About 120 people are being treated in hospitals, but the number of people injured is reported to be higher.
Much of the rescue effort was concentrated on what remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School, which took a direct hit.
Dozens of firefighters could be seen at the building, where the roof and walls had been knocked down.
“The school was flattened. The walls were pancaked in,” Oklahoma’s Lt Gov Todd Lamb told the BBC. (BBC)