OKLAHOMA CITY — Rescue workers with sniffer dogs and searchlights picked through the wreckage of a massive tornado to ensure no survivors remained buried in the rubble of primary schools, houses and buildings in an Oklahoma City suburb.
The massive tornado on Monday afternoon flattened entire blocks of the town, killed at least 24 people and injured about 240 in Moore, Oklahoma.
But as dawn approached today, officials were increasingly confident that everyone caught in the disaster had been accounted for, despite initial fears that the twister had claimed the lives of more than 90 people.
Jerry Lojka, spokesman for Oklahoma Emergency Management, said search-and-rescue dog teams would search for anybody trapped under the rubble, but that attention would also be focused on a huge cleanup job.
“They will continue the searches of areas to be sure nothing is overlooked,” he said. “There’s going to be more of a transition to recovery.”
Registered for aid
More than 1,000 people had already registered for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which sent hundreds of workers to Oklahoma to help with the recovery.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said many more likely needed help but did not have working phones or Internet connections.
“Right now it’s about getting people a place to stay that have lost their homes,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme.
“So we’re going to start going neighbourhood to neighbourhood and talking to people and seeing what they’re going to need.”
After a long day of searching through shattered homes that was slowed by rainy weather yesterday, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said it seemed no one was missing.
“As far as I know, of the list of people that we have had that they are all accounted for in one way or another,” he said.
Dog teams and members of the National Guard were changing shifts to work through the night.
Nine children were among the 24 killed, including seven who died at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which took a direct hit by the deadliest tornado to strike the United States in two years.
Emergency workers pulled more than 100 survivors from the debris of homes, schools and a hospital after the tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City region with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour, leaving a trail of destruction 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.
Plaza Towers Elementary was one of five schools in its path. “They literally were lifting walls up and kids were coming out,” Oklahoma State Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis said. “They pulled kids out from under cinder blocks without a scratch on them.” (Reuters)