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Devastating Tornado Cuts Path of Death in Oklahoma

Elementary school students among the victims as town of Moore works on recovery efforts

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A child is pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., and passed along to rescuers Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)Update: The official death count has been revised down to 24 people in the devastated town of Moore and surrounding areas outside Oklahoma City impacted by Monday's tornado, despite earlier indications from local officials that put the number much higher.

Hundreds are injured and the casualty numbers may still rise as the search for survivors continues.

Reports indicate the tornado was more than a mile wide at times, contained winds of over 200 miles per hour, and simply destroyed everything in its path. Whole neighborhoods were flattened, cars flung, roofs ripped off and even schools where children huddled for safety were not spared.

As The Oklahoman reports Tuesday morning:

As Monday turned into Tuesday, the town of Moore, a community of 41,000 people 10 miles south of the city, braced for another long, harrowing day.

“As long as we are here … we are going to hold out hope that we will find survivors,” said Trooper Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 50 children. Amy Elliott, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office, said Tuesday that there could be as many as 40 more fatalities from Monday's tornado.

Families anxiously waited at nearby churches to hear if their loved ones were OK. A man with a megaphone stood Monday evening near St. Andrews United Methodist Church and called out the names of surviving children. Parents waited nearby, hoping to hear their sons' and daughters' names.

The New York Times reports:

Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore was reduced to a pile of twisted metal and toppled walls. Rescue workers were able to pull several children from the rubble, but on Monday evening crews were still struggling to cut through fallen beams and clear debris amid reports that dozens of students were trapped. At Briarwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, on the border with Moore, cars were thrown through the facade and the roof was torn off.

“Numerous neighborhoods were completely leveled,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department said by telephone. “Neighborhoods just wiped clean.”

This time-lapse video shows that path the tornado cut:

Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Photos:

This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows homes flattened outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)

Aerial view of homes hit by a massive tornado between SW4th and SW 19th in Moore, Monday May 20, 2013. (Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman)

This aerial photo shows the remains of homes hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday May 20, 2013. A tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)

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