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Rebuilding in Moore After Deadly Tornado


Joe Curry, left, and his friend search the damaged remains of his home.

Joe Curry, left, and his friend search the damaged remains of his home.


From VOA Learning English, this is In the News.

People in Moore, Oklahoma, are starting to rebuild after a three-kilometer-wide tornado hit the city on Monday. Officials say the storm killed 24 people in Moore and nearby areas. More than 200 others were injured.

President Obama declared a major disaster in Oklahoma. His declaration freed up federal money to help state officials with the recovery effort. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin deployed the state National Guard and extra police to assist with rescue operations. She described the tornado as one of the “most horrific” disasters her state has ever faced.

“In many places, homes were absolutely destroyed, taken away. There’s just sticks and bricks, basically. It’s hard to tell if there was a structure there or not. If you get into some of the major neighborhoods, you can’t tell where the streets were. The street signs are gone. And that’s been a big challenge for us -- being able to determine which area of a community we might be in because the streets are just gone, the signs are just gone.”

Weather experts say the tornado had wind speeds of at least 322 kilometers an hour. It left a path of destruction stretching close to 30 kilometers. The storm flattened large parts of Moore, a city of 60,000 people. A record-setting tornado hit Moore in May of 1999.

On Monday Alfredo Corrales crowded into a small underground shelter with his family and a neighbor.

“Me and the neighbor were just holding on to the hatch, just to keep the door secure. And that wind was blowing over, and the wind was just sucking up on the door. And when it was doing that, the rain was just shooting down into the cellar.”

The storm hit two elementary schools just as students were preparing to leave for the day. Both schools were crushed, leaving many children trapped in the wreckage.

“It was just thump, thump and the roof came off. And then I left something and then it was raining, clay on me and all that.”

Rescue workers dug through the wreckage and pulled several children out alive.

Quick-thinking teachers are credited with saving lives by moving students to closed spaces before the storm destroyed the building. Sherry Biddle teaches at Briarwood. She described how she helped her students protect themselves.

“I had them take their backpacks and put them over their heads, just as another safety precaution, as they were down in the center of our room, in the center of our building.”

But seven children were killed when the tornado destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Susan Pierce is superintendent of Moore public schools. She said many lives were saved because every school followed sheltering directions.

“Our administrators, staff, teachers and students put our crisis plan into action immediately. We monitored the weather throughout the day and when it was time to shelter, we did just that.”

Oklahoma officials say the current warning system provided enough time to prepare before the tornado hit. But many people lost everything they owned.

There is debate about whether all schools in Oklahoma should be required to have tornado shelters. Some say even the best built shelter might not have protected against Monday's tornado. The National Weather Service rated the tornado an EF-5. That is the most powerful kind of storm on the five-level scale that measures a tornado’s power. It was the second deadliest tornado in the United States since 2011, when 161 people were killed in Joplin, Missouri.

Join us next Tuesday more about tornadoes on the VOA Learning English program Science in the News.

That’s In The News. I’m Steve Ember.

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