[Photos] 24 People Killed, Including 9 Children In Devestating Oklahoma Tornado

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This is absolutely tragic news. For the last 12 hours, most of the country has been glued to the television, praying for the families and community affected by the tornado that hit Oklahoma. A massive tornado at least a half mile-wide with 200 mph winds, ripped through Oklahoma City’s suburbs. As of Tuesday morning, the tornado had killed at least 24 people including at least 7 children, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled inside.

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The area that was hit the hardest, is called Moore, a 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. Search and rescue crews were looking for anyone who may be trapped in the rubble.

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President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma and has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Individuals and business owners affected by the disaster may apply for federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent a special team to Oklahoma’s emergency operations center to help out and dispatch resources.

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Crews continued their desperate search-and-rescue effort throughout the night at Plaza Towers Elementary. Children from the school were among the dead, but several students were pulled out alive earlier Monday from under a collapsed wall and other heaps of mangled debris. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain of parents and neighborhood volunteers. Parents carried children in their arms to a triage center in the parking lot. Some of the students looked dazed while others appeared terrified.

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The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister. Monday’s powerful tornado loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999. Please keep those who lost loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

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UPDATED: As of 1:20 p.m. EST, the Associated Press reports:

The state medical examiner’s office has revised the death toll from the tornado to 24 people, including nine children. Authorities had said initially that as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children. 237 injuries have been reported.

They are still searching for victims.