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OK
Dublin: 14 °C Monday 17 June, 2019
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Search for tornado survivors as Oklahoma mourns 9 children

“There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.”

Victor Gonzalez seeks shelter from the rain under a sheet of plastic as he helps a friend salvage items from a tornado-ravaged home.
Victor Gonzalez seeks shelter from the rain under a sheet of plastic as he helps a friend salvage items from a tornado-ravaged home.
Image: Charlie Riedel/AP/Press Association Images

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama said the youngest victims of the Oklahoma disaster were taking shelter in the safest place they knew – their school.

Although many pupils were pulled from the wreckage alive, seven children lost their lives when the tornado ripped through Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore. Another two minors were killed elsewhere.

“Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children; with the neighbours, first responders, and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed; and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night,” Obama said from the White House yesterday.

Jim Stubblefield, of Norman, Okla., raises a tattered flag he found while helping his sister salvage items from her tornado-ravaged home. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Rescue teams worked throughout the night, hoping to find more survivors among the piles of rubble.

Police chief Bill Citty confirmed the death toll was at 24 last night (revised down from earlier figures of 51: some victims had been counted more than once) but warned there could be more bodies found in the coming days.

“The search is still going on, heavily in Moore because they have such a large area to cover. So we have 24 right now. There could be more.”

Currently, there are a handful of people still on the missing list.

At least 101 people have been pulled alive from under debris, said Terri Watkins of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, and officials said more than 200 people have been injured.

Obama assured residents of the city that “their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes”.

“For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention.

There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.

Monday’s tornado followed roughly the same track as a May 1999 twister that killed 44 people, injured hundreds more and destroyed thousands of homes. The National Weather Service upgraded the twister EF-5, the highest measure on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with wind speeds of 210 mph.

-Additional reporting by AFP

VIDEO: Emotional reunion as tornado survivor finds dog buried alive under house

Scenes of death, destruction as tornado strikes Oklahoma suburbs

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