Storms hinder Oklahoma tornado cleanup

2013-05-23 19:13
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Moore - A band of thunderstorms battered the Oklahoma City area on Thursday, slowing cleanup operations in the town where a tornado killed 24 people and destroyed thousands of homes this week.

The first of the funerals, for a 9-year-old girl killed at a Moore elementary school that took a direct hit in Monday's storm, was scheduled for Thursday morning.

A family photo showed the girl, Antonia Candelaria, beaming with a big smile and wearing a white sun hat.

Early estimates indicate the tornado caused more than $2bn of damage in Moore. Whole subdivisions in the fast-growing community of 56 000 people were destroyed.

Authorities estimated that as many as 13 000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 33 000 people were affected - an especially traumatic toll for a city that had already suffered three other tornados since 1998.

Two elementary schools were hit - one was levelled - by Monday's tornado.

Candelaria was one of seven children who perished at the Plaza Towers Elementary School, a one storey building with barely a wall left standing.

Altogether, 10 children were killed in the storm, including two infants.

The medical examiner reported that six of the children who died at Plaza Towers suffocated after being buried under a mass of bricks, steel and other materials as the building collapsed.

A seventh child who died there, 8-year-old Kyle Davis, was killed instantly by an object - perhaps a large piece of stone or a beam - that fell on the back of his neck.


Thursday's thunderstorms produced hail, heavy rain and high winds in the morning. A flash flood warning was also in effect.

The National Weather Service said more severe storms were forecast for late afternoon and at night, and that more tornados were a possibility.

The weather was hampering cleanup and recovery efforts that had just begun to accelerate now that all of the missing had been accounted for.

Residents were only formally allowed back into the damage zone on Wednesday afternoon, where they picked through enormous piles of debris.

Shayne Patteson was among them, moving around the ruins of his three-bedroom home.

All that was left was the tiny area where his wife hunkered down under a mattress to protect their three children, when a tornado packing winds of at least 320kph slammed through his neighbourhood.

Patteson vowed to rebuild, likely in the same place, but said next time he will have an underground storm shelter.

"That is the first thing that will be going into the design of the house, is the storm shelter and the garage," he said as he looked around piles of bricks and plywood where their home once stood.

Read more on:    us  |  natural disasters  |  oklahoma tornado

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