Tornado Kills Children at Elementary School, Many Missing

Monday, 20 May 2013 07:27 PM

By Greg Richter

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The bodies of at least 24 children were pulled from the rubble of their elementary school and up to two dozen third-graders are feared dead in Moore, Okla.

As the death toll from the two-mile-wide tornado that struck Moore, continued to rise Monday evening, a local NBC affiliate reported that the students were trapped under debris. The station reported that seven victims who had been recovered had drowned.

Plaza Tower Elementary School took a direct hit from the storm. Seventy-five students and teachers were still inside. Some were rescued.

A student who survived told CNN of cinderblocks burying children who had taken refuge under sinks in a bathroom, and teachers had to pull them out.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office says 51 people have been killed by the tornado. Spokeswoman Amy Elliott says the death toll is expected to rise. Elliott didn't know how many of those killed were children.

Children were still unaccounted for as search and rescue crews dug through rubble Monday afternoon.

Two elementary schools in the Oklahoma City suburb took direct hits from a two-mile-wide tornado.

Third-graders at Plaza Towers Elementary were not able to leave the school before the tornado hit, CNN reported. Seventy-five students and staff were at the school. A KFOR-TV reporter said cars were thrown into the building, which was heavily damaged.

The school had only about 10 minutes warning.

Two children told KFOR "they were literally hugging the walls" as the tornado tore the school apart. Cries of help were reported from the school by CNN.

The neighborhood surrounding the school was devastated, with nothing but foundations left of some homes.

Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department says the school suffered "extensive damage" on Monday afternoon.

Neighborhoods in Moore are flattened and buildings are on fire. Television footage on Monday afternoon showed homes and buildings that had been reduced to rubble in Moore, located south of Oklahoma City. Footage also showed vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.

Briarwood Elementary School also was destroyed. That school has an enrollment of 700 students, but no word has been released on how many people were in the facility when it was hit.

The tornado is believed to have been at least an F-4, which means its winds might have been up to 200 mph. It caused destruction over 30 square miles.

Moore was hit by a tornado in 1999, which killed 50 people. CNN said Monday's tornado was two to three times as large as that killer twister.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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