Claremore Daily Progress

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May 20, 2013

Moore Tornado: Death toll revised, at least 24 killed

MOORE —

Emergency crews combed the sticks and rubble remains of an Oklahoma City suburb Tuesday morning less than a day after a massive tornado slammed through the community, flattening homes and demolishing an elementary school. At least 24 people were killed, including at least seven children, and those numbers were expected to climb.

As the sun rose over the shattered community of Moore, the state medical examiner’s office cut the estimated death toll by more than half.

Spokeswoman Amy Elliot said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm that struck Monday afternoon. Downed communication lines and problems sharing information with officers exacerbated the problem, she said.

“It was a very eventful night,” Elliot said. “I truly expect that they’ll find more today.”

Authorities initially said as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.

New search-and-rescue teams moved in as dawn broke Tuesday, taking over from the 200 or so emergency responders who scoured the neighborhood all night with a helicopter shining a spotlight from above to aid their search.

Fire Chief Gary Bird said the fresh teams would search the whole community at least two more times to ensure that no survivors — or victims — were missed. They were painting an ‘X’ on each structure to note it had been checked.

“That is to confirm we have done our due diligence for this city, for our citizens,” Bird said.

By early Tuesday, the community of 41,000 people, 10 miles south of Oklahoma 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.

Search and rescue teams continued their desperate efforts at Plaza Towers Elementary, where the storm ripped off the school’s roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal as students and teachers huddled in hallways and bathrooms.

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