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Two babies among the ten children killed in Oklahoma tornado

Preliminary causes of death suggest both infants – aged just four and seven months old – died of head trauma.

Rick Brown puts on a pair of boots after finding them in his tornado-ravaged home in Moore, Oklahoma. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

TWO BABIES were among the 24 killed by a tornado that tore through Oklahoma, officials have said, as residents began the daunting task of rebuilding their lives in the wake of the catastrophe.

Ten children – including a pair of infants, four and seven months old – perished in Monday’s tornado, which steamrolled entire neighbourhoods and two schools in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.

“Our hearts go out to all the people affected by this tragedy,” Amy Elliott of the state medical examiner’s office said in an email detailing the revised breakdown of the official death toll. Previously, authorities had put the number of child fatalities at nine.

Obama to visit region on Sunday

President Barack Obama will visit the ravaged region on Sunday to meet with victims and get a firsthand look at the stunning, widespread damage.

The preliminary causes of death for the two dozen casualties included blunt force traumas, as well as asphyxiation, according to the office, which also released some of their names. Both babies died of head trauma.

Some 237 people were injured by the hurricane-strength storm, Andy Oden, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, told AFP.

It was not immediately clear if anyone remains unaccounted for, with Governor Mary Fallin urging everyone affected to come forward.

“We need to know where you’re at. We need to know if you need assistance,” she said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, on a visit to the area, pledged government support for those struggling to piece their lives back together.

“At some point the cameras will leave, the national ones will leave first, then the local ones,” she said.

But on behalf of President Obama and on behalf of [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], we will be here to stay until this recovery is complete.

For residents whose lives were turned upside down, relief about having survived turned to heartbreak as the extent of the disaster slowly sunk in.

Curtis Carver, a 20-year veteran of the US Marine Corps who served two years in Iraq, described his hometown as a “war zone” as he waited at a police checkpoint for permission to recover keepsakes from the ruins of his house.

“It was my home, my kids’ home,” said the 38-year-old father of two, both of whom escaped harm. Carver was not allowed past because his house was in an area still deemed too dangerous.

“Now it’s gone. There’s nothing left. It’s a pile of sticks…. and they’re keeping me away,” he said.

The tornado was the strongest possible category, EF5, packing winds of more than 200 miles per hour.

The epic twister, two miles in diameter, flattened block after block of homes as it struck mid-afternoon Monday, hurling cars through the air, downing power lines and setting off localised fires in a 45-minute rampage.

The epicentre of the tragedy was the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where frightened teachers and students huddled in hallways and bathrooms as the twister barrelled through, and where some of the children died.

- © AFP, 2013

Photo: Massive hailstones fell in Oklahoma before the twister hit

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

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