The demolished Plaza Towers Elementary School
What was formally a school was completely demolished – only leaving rubble and cries for help from beneath the wreckage. However, the screams reportedly stopped at 6.30pm (local time) creating fear for the little ones and their teachers which are buried under their school.
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Seven students drowned in school wreckage
Several children were pulled out alive from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary, but several of their classmates did not make it.
The bodies of seven students were retrieved after they were found drowned in a pool of water in the flattened school.
Meanwhile, about a mile away, the walls of Briarwood Elementary tumbled down. But thankfully nobody was hurt.
20 children among the 91 dead
The massive mile-wide tornado with winds up to 321 km/hr killed at least 91 people when the storm hit at 3pm (local time) on 20May. Among the casualties are reportedly said to be at least 20 children.
Authorities reported that 233 are injured and are being treated in local hospitals. Death tolls are also expected to rise over the next few hours.
24 more students feared to be dead
The search continued overnight for two dozen Plaza Towers Elementary School children aged between five and eight.
With the help of flood lights, emergency crews dug through the debris and used jackhammers to tear away the broken concrete in hopes of recovering the little bodies of 24 students that are feared to be dead.
“Our hearts are broken for the parents that are wondering about the state of their children that had been in the schools that have been hit today,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.
Fallin expressed her grief on behalf of her state saying, “I know that there are families wondering where their loved ones are.”
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Nightmare tornado lasted 40 minutes
The nightmare lasted a terrifying 40 minutes creating destruction and death across southern Oklahoma City and its suburbs.
“It’s certainly the most powerful tornado that I’ve ever dealt with in my 20 years with the weather service,” exclaimed NWS meteorologist Rick Smith to the BBC.
Although The National Weather Service in Norman said a tornado warning was in effect for 16 minutes before the twister developed, many still fell victim to the destructive path of the killer tornado.
How to survive a tornado
In order to survive a tornado, here are some tips you should keep in mind:
If you’re in your car or somewhere outdoors, seek stronger shelter. But do not get under an overpass or bridge; you are better off getting out of your vehicle and lie in a low and flat location such as a ditch instead.
The most important rule is to ‘Get Low’ and find the lowest, strongest place possible. The best place to go is your basement. But if you don’t have a basement, go to a storm shelter or a neighbour’s basement or the absolute lowest level of your home. It would be a huge plus if your basement or storm shelter is also stocked with emergency supplies (Matches, candles, food, water etc.).
Seek refuge in the centre of the building’s structure and put as many walls between you and the wind as possible. Be sure to avoid corners, windows and doors. Protect your head and neck with your arms when the wind hits.
Make sure you are fully dressed with warm and comfortable clothes and shoes. It will be hard to find such things after the storm, plus you’ll have to walk through debris to get to safety.
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‘Our hearts are broken for the parents’
Oklahoma City tornado: Get the latest developments in this disaster