Washington, May 22 (IANS) Residents of suburban Oklahoma were returning home as rescue workers neared the end of the search for survivors and the dead after a mammoth tornado – said to be as wide as 22 football fields – flattened countless homes and claimed 24 lives, including nine children.
Even as officials revised the death toll down from the earlier 51, the National Weather Service gave Monday’s tornado that hit suburban Moore, a community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, with powerful winds that topped 200 mph, a preliminary highest EF5 rating.
The five ranking, on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, puts the tornado in the same class as the deadliest in US history, which hit Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, killing 158 and injuring hundreds more, according to Fox News.
Only 59 EF-5 tornadoes have touched down in the US in the last 63 years, or just one-tenth of a percent of all tornadoes.
Teams are still evaluating the destruction, CNN said. So far, they’ve found that the tornado spanned 1.3 miles — the length of more than 22 football fields lined up end-to-end — carving a 17-mile path of destruction.
“We’re talking levels of debris that’s 4 feet high, as far as you can see. And we’re talking about cars that are upside-down and school books and children’s toys and trees without bark,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett calling it “the storm of storms.”
Gary Bird, fire chief for the community of 56,000, said Tuesday afternoon he was “98 percent sure” there are no more survivors or bodies to recover under the rubble.
His comments came after emergency crews spent much of the day searching the town’s broken remnants for survivors of the twister that flattened homes and demolished an elementary school.
No additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night, Bird said.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahome, forecast more stormy weather Tuesday in parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, including Moore.