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Governor deploys Okla. Guard to assist after tornado

ME's office revises death toll to 24; count expected to climb

May. 20, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  

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RAW VIDEO: Oklahoma National Guard secures element...: RAW VIDEO: Soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard's 700 Brigade Support Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team secure a perimeter around the Plaza Tower Elementary School, which was devastated by a tornado on May 20, 2013. (Army)

MOORE, OKLA. — Search-and-rescue crews worked through the night after a monstrous tornado barreled through the Oklahoma City suburbs, demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of splintered wood. At least 24 people were killed, including at least seven children, and those numbers were expected to climb.

As the sun rose over the shattered community of Moore, the state medical examiner’s office cut the estimated death toll by more than half.

Spokeswoman Amy Elliot said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. Downed communication lines and problems sharing information with officers exacerbated the problem, she said.

Authorities initially said as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.

Teams were continuing to search the rubble in Moore, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, after the Monday afternoon tornado. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations and activated extra highway patrol officers.

The storm stripped leaves off trees and left scores of blocks barren and dark. Rescuers walked through neighborhoods where Monday’s powerful twister flattened home after home, listening for voices calling out from the rubble. A helicopter buzzed above, shining lights on crews below.

By early Tuesday, the community of 41,000 people braced for another long, harrowing day.

“As long as we are here … we are going to hold out hope that we will find survivors,” said Trooper Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 50 children.

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Associated Press writers Sean Murphy and Sue Ogrocki contributed to this report.

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