Nation

In Oklahoma, Rescue Efforts Give Way To Recovery

NPR | May 22, 2013 5:49 p.m.

Contributed By:

Mark Memmott

A teddy bear sits atop some of the rubble in Moore, Okla.

A teddy bear sits atop some of the rubble in Moore, Okla.

Reuters /Landov, Rick Wilking

The news Wednesday from Moore, Okla., much of which was destroyed by a massive tornado Monday, begins with word that officials doubt they will find any more survivors or bodies under the hundreds of homes, businesses and other buildings that were leveled.

Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird put it this way Tuesday: After searches of all damaged buildings, “I’m 98 percent sure we’re good.”

That means the official death toll from the storm remains at 24 — a figure that could still change. More than 230 people are said to have been injured by the twister, which packed winds of more than 200 mph.

Word about the low likelihood of finding any more victims or survivors also means that the mission in Moore is shifting from a rescue operation to recovery efforts.

On Morning Edition, NPR’s Kirk Siegler reported that because hundreds of people have been displaced by the tornado, Red Cross officials are preparing to keep emergency shelters open for weeks. St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Moore has been stocked with food and supplies, Kirk reported, “and donations have also been pouring in” to other shelters nearby.

Also on Morning Edition, NPR’s David Schaper reported about James Rushing, who lived across the street from one of the two elementary schools that were destroyed by the storm. As the tornado approached, Rushing ran from his home to Plaza Towers Elementary, where his foster son was a student. Rushing found shelter with some of the children and staff in a bathroom. Both he and his son were among the survivors.

The sounds “were just deafening,” Rushing says. “You could hear windows … you could even hear wood breaking. It was so loud you couldn’t hear anything but things being destroyed.”

His home was destroyed. Rushing believes he’d be dead if he had stayed there. But even though he and most of the children at the school made it through the storm, Rushing says in reality, “there were no safe rooms in that school. There was no where for these children to take cover but in a bathroom.” Authorities have said that 7 of the 9 children killed during the tornado were students at the school.

NPR’s coverage of the tornado is collected here. Some of the morning’s related news includes:

— The storm likely caused more than $1 billion in damages, according to Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV.

— Officials say that among those who were injured, “four individuals were struck by vehicles or other large objects, 85 were struck by other objects and 148 sustained cuts or pierces,” The Oklahoman writes.

— “Moore Police spokesman Jeremy Lewis said more than 200 people were rescued from the rubble — all of them Monday night,” says CBS News. “No survivors were found Tuesday, he added.”

— For the first day since the tragedy in Moore, the National Weather Service is not warning that there could be more severe weather in that area.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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