Tornado: Obama signs disaster declaration
Reports suggest that 91 people have been killed in the devastating Oklahoma tornado.
OKLAHOMA - Authorities in the United States (US) said on Monday more than 20 children were killed in a tornado which hit Oklahoma City.
US President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration after the tornado struck the suburb of Moore on Monday.
Reports indicate that the death toll had risen from 51 to 91 and not 100 as previously stated.
At least 145 people have been hospitalised.
Several homes as well as two schools and a hospital have been reduced to rubble.
An eyewitness described the heartbreaking scenes.
"There was a man's body pulled out, a woman's body pulled out. A seven month old baby and the mother's body were pulled out. They believe that at some point they were trying to get into a freezer, but I can tell you that pulling the debris up, that did not do any good."
Meanwhile survivors described their narrow escapes.
"We had about a 35 minute warning before the tornado came. When the tornado came our little girl was still at school and we had to rush and get her but by the time we got back to our house it was down, we were very lucky to survive."
CNN reporter Gary Tuchman reported that the devastation of the Moore neighbourhood was unbelievable.
"It reminds me of January 2012 and Japan during the Tsunami. This neighbourhood is destroyed you can't even recognise where the houses used to be. It is like a bomb flattened it. It was a very powerful tornado and we are very sad being here at this school for the past four hours."
HEAVY RAINS AND WINDS
The storm brought torrential rains and winds gusting up to 320 km and more an hour.
Entire tracts of homes were turned to rubble, as well as two schools and a hospital.
Rescue teams raced against the setting sun to find survivors especially in the ruins of a school.
As many as 30 children are still unaccounted for.
An unidentified young man arrived to find his childhood home reduced to rubble, but he managed to rescue his neighbour.
"There are no words to describe this, my whole life I have been there, my parents have been there since 1974 and everything is gone in an instant. Its devastating."
CNN's Nick Valencia described the scenes of devastation and how one man and his handicapped wife survived.
People were scrambling, trying to recover what they could.
"I spoke to another resident who was riding out the storm in a shelter, she said the wind force was so strong that it cracked the shelter she was in." Valencia said.
A man rode out the storm with his handicapped wife and said he put his faith in the Lord and took refuge in the bathroom and was able to get out alive.
TORNADO HITS TEXAS
Meanwhile, six people died and seven were still missing after a powerful tornado ripped through a north Texas neighbourhood last week.
Authorities were assessing damage and searching through rubble last Friday, hoping to find survivors among the twisted metal and splintered wood of flattened homes.
"This tornado was a monster," said Hood County Commissioner Steve Berry. "It's just devastating."
The tornado, which brought winds of 270 to 320km/h, was rated an EF4 by the National Weather Service.
An EF4 is the second most powerful level for a storm and these rare tornadoes can blow away a well-constructed wood or brick home.
The storm blew homes from their foundations, tossed cars through the air and uprooted trees as it raged through at least four counties near the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The National Weather Service said there were reports of 10 tornadoes touching down in the area.
Granbury, a town of 8,000 people about 55km southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth was hardest hit.
Officials counted four men and two women dead in Hood County, where Granbury is located.
Another seven were missing and at least 45 others were injured.
In March 2012, at least 39 people were killed in a chain of tornadoes from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.
A total of 70 people were killed in tornadoes last year alone.
The tornado season in the United States typically starts in the Gulf Coast states in late winter, and then moves north with the warming weather, peaking around May and trailing off by July.
Additional reporting by CNN.