Death toll from Oklahoma tornadoes rises to nine

Mother and child die after being sucked out of vehicle

 

Nine people were killed in tornadoes that swept through central Oklahoma, part of a storm system that caused widespread flooding in Oklahoma City and its suburbs, the state’s chief medical examiner said today.

The dead included two children and seven adults, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office. The death toll earlier had been reported as five.

The tornadoes struck just 11 days after a twister ranked as EF5, the most powerful ranking, tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore and killed 24 people. The latest storms dumped up to 20cm of rain on the Oklahoma City area, causing flash flooding that submerged parts of the sprawling metropolitan area that is home to more than 1.3 million people.

Nearly two dozen people were rescued from areas cut off by rising water, the National Weather Service said. More than 70 people were treated for storm-related injuries, Oklahoma hospital officials said.

Severe storms also hit neighboring Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency yesterday, and were forecast to move into Illinois today.

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The devastation was caused by large, long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells, which produce the strongest tornadoes, along with large hail.

Forecasters believe at least five tornadoes touched down in central Oklahoma, which survey teams were trying to verify, meteorologist Rick Smith said from the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma.

“Some of these tornadoes were wrapped in rain and they were difficult to see,” he said.

The tornadoes hit during yesterday’s evening rush hour and many of those hurt or killed were on the roadways.

Among the dead were a woman and her baby who were traveling on Interstate 40, just west of Oklahoma City, when their vehicle was picked up by the storm and they were sucked out of it, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

One tornado rampaged down the interstate, tipping over trucks and hurling hay bales, a witness said. Television images showed downed power lines, tossed cars and motorists stranded in flood water.

“For reasons that are not clear to me, more people took to the roads, more than we expected. Everyone acted differently in this storm, and as a result, it created an extremely dangerous situation,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. “I think we are still a little shaken by what happened in Moore. We are still burying children and victims, so our emotions are still strong,” he added.Reuters