Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 22, 2013

Digging through the rubble

Fire chief: Search for survivors, victims of tornado almost complete.

Moore, Okla. — The search for survivors and the dead is nearly complete in the Oklahoma City suburb that was smashed by a mammoth tornado, the fire chief said Tuesday.

Gary Bird said he’s “98 percent sure” there are no more survivors or bodies to recover under the rubble in Moore, a community of 56,000 people.

His comments came after emergency crews spent much of the day searching the town’s broken remnants for survivors of the twister that flattened homes and demolished an elementary school. The storm killed at least 24 people, including at least nine children.

Every damaged home has been searched at least once, Bird said. His goal is to conduct three searches of each location just to be sure. He was hopeful the work could be completed by nightfall, but the efforts were being hampered by heavy rain.

No additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night, Bird said.

Earlier in the day, the state medical examiner’s office cut the estimated death toll by more than half. Gov. Mary Fallin vowed to account for every resident.

“We will rebuild, and we will regain our strength,” said Fallin, who went on a flyover of the area and described it as “hard to look at.”

Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm that struck Monday afternoon. Downed communication lines and problems sharing information with officers exacerbated the problem, she said.

“It was a very eventful night,” Elliott said. “I truly expect that they’ll find more today.”

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

New search-and-rescue teams moved in at dawn Tuesday, taking over for the 200 or so emergency responders who had worked all night. A helicopter shined a spotlight from above to aid in the search.

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