As many as 30 third-grade students are believed to be dead after a tornado leveled an elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma.
Moore police dig through the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School following a
tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013 Photo Copyright Associated Press
The tornado hit both Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools. The Briarwood students have all been accounted for.
KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City is reporting rescuers are attempting to recover the children from the debris at the Plaza Towers site. Seven students reportedly drowned. The first responders were first sent there for a search and rescue mission; now it's search and recovery.
The TV station initially reported that 75 children and staff members who were seeking shelter in a hallway of Plaza Towers school when the storm hit, according to KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.
Children were clinging to the walls to avoid being carried away by the winds, according to news reports.
A KFOR reporter says 30 students were taken from the school before the tornado hit. The 4th, 5th, 6th grade students have reportedly been accounted for. A 3rd grade class was thought to be taking shelter in a hallway that is now wiped out.
The Associated Press reports that some children have been pulled from the rubble at Plaza Towers.
Moore's city manager reportedly told Diane Sawyer that the schools did not have tornado shelters.
KFOR also reports that at least one teacher was laying on top of three students to protect them from falling debris.
KFOR's news anchor described the tornado as "ripping up everything in its sight," and reporters on the ground said it left "Atomic bomb-like devastation."
The tornado created a debris ball about two miles wide. It was on the ground for nearly an hour.
In 1999, Moore was hit by a tornado that contained the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface, according to the Associated Press.
Source: Pamela Engel, Business Insider