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At least 51 dead in Oklahoma tornado

The state medical examiner’s office says at least 51 people, including children, have been killed in the tornado that hit Oklahoma City`s suburbs and the death toll is expected to rise.

The huge tornado with winds of up to 200 miles per hour tore through the suburb of Moore on Monday, ripping up at least two schools and leaving a wake of tangled wreckage as a dangerous storm system threatened as many as 10 U.S. states.

Aerial video showed tracts of homes destroyed, cars tossed about and piled atop one another, and at least one building on fire. Rescue workers were pulling third-graders from a severely damaged elementary school in Moore, a KFOR television reporter said from the scene, and aerial video showed first responders sifting through the rubble left behind.

 

The National Weather Service assigned the twister a preliminary ranking of EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning the second most powerful category of tornado with winds up to 200 mph.

The number of those injured remained unconfirmed after the tornado struck in mid-afternoon.

Two hospitals have received dozens injured from the tornado. Several are in critical condition.  The widespread debris has left many to fear the worst.

 

The massive twister struck at the height of tornado season, and more were forecast. On Sunday, tornadoes killed two people and injured 39 in Oklahoma.

Witnesses said Monday’s tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the region on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5, meaning it had winds over 200 mph.

“When they started flying I just dove in a stall and that’s about the last, I got covered up with some debris and it pushed me in the shed. I was pretty lucky I suppose,” said Lando Hite, standing among the remains of the farm he was at.

The tornado season in the United States had been unusually quiet until last week, when a tornado struck the town of Granbury, Texas, killing six people.

With files from The Associated Press