Washington, May 21 (IANS) As rescuers searched for survivors of Monday’s devastating tornado that pulverized a vast swath of the Oklahoma City suburbs, authorities revised the death toll down to 24 from 91. Nine of the fatalities are children.
The Monday afternoon storm carved a trail through the area as much as two miles wide and 17 miles long, CNN reported citing officials.
Hardest hit was Moore, Oklahoma – a suburban town of about 56,000 and the site of eerily similar twisters in 1999 and again four years later.
The state medical examiner’s office said 24 people were confirmed dead, including nine children.
Earlier official reports of at least 51 deaths were erroneous, Amy Elliot, chief administrative officer for the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was quoted as saying. More than 200 people were injured.
Terri Watkins, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesperson who described Tuesday’s search as “board by board,” said it was far too soon to account for the devastation of the storm.
Citing Elliot, some media outlets, including the New York Times had earlier put the death toll at at least 91. The toll was likely to climb, it then said citing officials. Hospitals reported at least 145 people injured, 70 of them children.
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 risk of tornadoes throughout the region remained high Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Centre in Norman.