Oklahoma tornado kills 91; toll to rise

Washington, May 21 (IANS) At least 91 people were killed, 20 of them children, as a massive tornado ripped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs in the US, flattening homes and businesses and severely damaging a hospital and two elementary schools.

Emergency crews and volunteers worked through the early morning hours Tuesday in a frantic search for survivors of the tornado which appeared to have wrought the most damage appeared in the suburb of Moore.

The New York Times cited Amy Elliott, spokesperson for the Oklahoma City medical examiner, as saying that at least 91 people had died. Officials said the toll was likely to climb. Hospitals reported at least 145 people injured, 70 of them children.

The risk of tornadoes throughout the region remained high Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Centre in Norman.

Firefighters, police, National Guard members and volunteers worked by flashlight overnight and into Tuesday morning, crawling across piles of debris in a determined search for survivors and victims, CNN reported.

Air National Guard members brought in thermal imaging equipment to aid in the search. More than 100 people had been pulled from the rubble alive since Monday afternoon, the state Highway Patrol said.

Early Tuesday, authorities asked news crews to move their satellite trucks from the scene because the idling engines were making it difficult for rescuers to listen for the faint sounds of survivors beneath the rubble.

The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, in the southern part of Oklahoma City metropolitan area, CNN affiliatre KFOR reported.

More than 40,000 customers remained without power Tuesday, according to a Oklahoma City utility spokesman said. More than half of those were in the heavily damaged suburb of Moore.

The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, KFOR reported.

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