A monstrous tornado at least a mile (800m) wide has roared through suburbs of Oklahoma City, flattening entire neighbourhoods and destroying a primary school with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph). At least 51 people have been killed, including at least 20 children, and officials say the death toll is expected to rise to 91.
The Oklahoma medical examiner’s office said it has not yet received the 40 more bodies that had been retrieved from the rubble in Moore, but has been told by emergency services to expect them, an official has said.
The ferocious storm – less than 1% of all tornadoes reach such wind speed – ripped through the suburb of Moore on Monday in a midwest region of the US known as tornado alley.
The storm laid waste to scores of buildings in the community of 41,000 people about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City. Block after block lay in ruins. Homes were crushed into piles of broken wood. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside. Rescuers launched a desperate rescue effort at the school, pulling children from heaps of debris and carrying them to a triage centre.
The National Weather Service estimated that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced five-point Fujita scale, the second most powerful type of twister.
More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 50 children as the search-and-rescue efforts continued throughout the night.
Amy Elliott, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office, told the Associated Press early on Tuesday that officials could see as many as 40 more fatalities from the tornado in addition to the 51 already confirmed dead. She said at least 20 children were among the confirmed dead.